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On Taking (Non-Productive) Breaks

Hello friends,

I hope you--like me-- found time over the holiday to reflect on the year that was and consume nearly twice your daily recommended caloric intake in Lindt chocolate truffles and kind-of-gross, kind-of-really-good alcoholic Egg Nog. But now that I've New Years Resolutioned Up and thrown away anything and everything even vaguely brown in my apartment in favor of leafy greens and Guava Goddess Kombucha tea, and I'm finally ready to be back in my normal writing routine, I realized something: I'm kind of rusty.

Due to the holiday and some unforeseen family stuff, I didn't get a chance to write for two weeks. And so today, when I sat back down in the familiar confines of Espresso Royale, after attempting to nod tentatively at the regulars (you know: the hippies, the college age dude in a bowler cap who is always reading one of the free alternative weeklies and tracing something on a pad, and the loud, unpredictable counter-culture girl with multiple piercings, an eerily normal looking boyfriend, and either a drug problem or an unusually small bladder), I tried to pick up where I left off on my novel re-writes and discovered, to my horror, that I couldn't, well, do anything. Ideas were vague, plot connections muddled. I couldn't remember the name of one of my central characters. I spent a terrifyingly long 45 minutes re-reading back chapters just to get a sense of what I was writing about only to find that when I finally remembered, I didn't have anything creative in the tank. So I went and ordered a Turkey Avocado Club on a sesame bagel.

And while I was sitting down to slay said lunch treat (I know, I know, bagels are terribly caloric), I started to think about why I was rusty. Unlike writer's block, (which-- I should point out-- is usually just my excuse to watch "The View"), it wasn't that I couldn't get anything on the page, it was more that I was forgetting what I needed to put on said page. Which reminded me that writing a novel is just like speaking a language. If you stop working, you lose your fluency, your momentum, and your ability to remember the names of secondary characters that play vital roles nearly all the way through the book. Of course, sometimes breaks are good, and necessary even, to clear your head or give a draft another look with a fresh set of eyes. But not while you're in the thick of things, and not when you have to turn in a certain draft of said piece of work to a certain thesis adviser in a certain amount of days, and you only have another 44 minutes of battery on your laptop, and the hippies are hogging the tables by the power outlet.

So, in conclusion, my break, while important were I to ever need this excess weight during hibernation, was not what experts might call "smart" or even "logical under the circumstances". Let me know if you suffered the same fate of holiday-induced indolence or feel free to heap on the guilt by telling me about the thousands and thousands of words you produced while your relatives were talking. Either way, drop it in the comments.

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