Monday, October 3, 2016

The Fallow Months

In your active writing years, was there ever a point you decided to quit writing altogether? If so, how long before you were back at it?

by Meredith Cole

After deciding to become a writer in my thirties, there has never been a time when I have decided to quit. Not seriously. I've certainly had my doubts as to whether or not writing novels is a viable career option for anyone (including me) in this age of short attention spans and YouTube videos. How can novelists really compete with tweets and sound bites? But quitting was never a real option for me. Long after anyone cares to read what I write, I will no doubt be in my study typing away at some new story and trying to follow the thread of a new idea.

I have had weeks stretch into months where I have not worked on my novels. And certainly years when I haven't published anything. But that doesn't mean I wasn't writing. I write non fiction for my job. I write blog posts and journal entries and an occasional poem. I work on other projects, like short stories, even when I take a break from a book in progress. I skip back to older projects and look at them again with fresh eyes.

I beat myself up when I take breaks from a manuscript, though. I tell myself to get back to work and finish the book already, and to stop getting distracted by home improvement projects or my garden or planning a vacation. And after awhile, I start to get restless and unhappy. I miss the writing and I realize that not writing is no longer something I can continue to do and remain happy. So I get back to work.

I've discovered that these fallow months serve an important purpose for me. They give me a distance from my work and let me approach it again with a new attitude. Although I both hate and love taking a break, breaks are necessary. And when I return to my manuscript, I often have new interesting ideas that I never would have had just staring at the computer screen non stop.

4 comments:

Paul D. Marks said...

Like you say Meredith, sometimes you need the fallow time to refresh and regroup. But even during those fallow periods, and excluding the other writing you do like for your job or short stories, we're always working, thinking on a story in the back of our minds, etc. So even though we're not putting words on paper I don't think there's really much true fallow time.

Art Taylor said...

My response would just echo Paul's here (proof I need to get up earlier!) but did want to chime in in agreement. I'm a slow writer, and despite best efforts, I don't always write every day. But the time is regularly productive in other ways, and those "fallow" days, weeks, months help thing to gestate, I think--switching metaphors somewhere in there, I know.....

Susan C Shea said...

Paul and Art are saying what I'd say too and what you've written. Being a writer is not all about typing away madly. It's about the time to think, dream, solve mental puzzles, and open up your imagination to so many ideas, a few of which will work their way back into the keyboard times.

Meredith Cole said...

Thanks you all for stopping by on a Monday to comment! So great to hear from all of you. And I must add that one of the best things about being a writer is that sitting and thinking is part of the job...