Dead zone

Picture of a dying flower, with the text DEAD ZONE ejdawson.com

I woke up this morning at 6am, got out of bed, and hit the desk with a furor and if you think this is how I normally operate you’d be dead wrong.

I’m an out of bed by about 8:30, maybe 9am on a Saturday, because it’s the morning I get to sleep in with the dog. Right now, he’s sulking in the cat’s bed. Staring at me. I broke the routine. Bad dog mum.

What’s got me here?

The opposite of my last few weeks.

I hit what I like to refer to as dead zones.

My drive to write, create, encourage was there, under the surface an intent I wanted. But most evenings when I normally focus on these things, I wasn’t doing it.

Was it because my day job was going through a huge and important upskill? Or that I was coping with getting serious feedback on my first neurodiverse book? Even preparing to start querying that book next week?

Maybe it was all of it, but my brain just said ‘no’ every time I wanted to get behind the keyboard and do some serious work. To sit and hyper focus, to just let the words come, beta read projects, polish short stories, fix big ones.

It took me a little while this morning that while my intent to do all these things was still there, and I wanted too, I’d taken a mental vacation from “work” because that’s exactly what it was, work.

I have a choice about what I do, how hard I drive myself, but that includes what I do with my spare time, and when ninety percent of it is writing in one form or another, it doesn’t leave a lot of time for mental break.

What triggered it?

I’d read a tweet about a guy who worked so hard his brain broke.

A wriggling fear and source of procrastination crept up on me. I’d written the other week about people who quit writing, and underneath it was a horrible dread that one day I’d be that person too. That either my brain would snap from all the demands, or one day, one little defeat would be one too many, and I’d just… stop.

I recently finished an almost yearlong demand list of scheduled work that needed doing, just a few weeks ago, so while had my own mental schedule, there were no editors or people I had specific dates to return projects to. There were no competitions or mentorship projects with deadlines. There was nothing but what I needed to do, when I thought I needed it done by.

My brain just very quietly disengaged. I spent a bit of time playing games, reading a few old books for fun and not for reviewing. I mentally distanced myself from my work.

Without thought of procrastination, or even being aware that was exactly what I was doing, I just took a mental step away from “work”.

So, this morning when I work up that drive returned. Nothing in particular triggered it except my subconscious thought that it was time to “get back to work.” That thought stilled me in my tracks, halfway across the kitchen, coffee cup in hand, ready to start work at six am on a Saturday morning.

It wasn’t just a declaration of being ready to work, but mentally ready to start the grueling process of querying again, but this time with a script that has whole sections of my soul. It was to embark on new challenges including a course on developmental editing.

There is a deep sense of urgency in writing, a perception it has to be all now and that we have to keep trying every single day to get our one script, or many, out a proverbial door. Like sending kids to school, handing in a work project, finishing a season of sport.

And if you don’t “do it” in time, you’re going to miss some form of lucky boat. That if you don’t do it now, the opportunity might escape. You’ll be left wondering if that big break could have been you if you’d just sent that email a single day earlier. That you wrote a book so similar to one that’s big and only if you’d thought and written it sooner.

Telling yourself this is the kind of pressure I wanted to escape. The idea that my chance was wholly dependent on working myself into a mental breakdown. And I’ve been doing this long enough to know, subconsciously or not, when I need to take a break, to step away mentally for a few weeks.

To breathe.

And it feels good. So, give yourself the space, if you’re pushing yourself and finding it hard, maybe you do need some down time. Putting a hold an email for a couple of weeks isn’t going to rob you of anything; its going to save you from an inevitable break. There are still those chances out there and I believe if they are meant for you then they’ll still be there when you’re ready to come back to it.

Because if this process can take years, decades, then you can afford to sit down, have a cup of tea, and reread the book you’ve read a million times, that isn’t perfect, but you still love it. I know I do. Even when it’s my own.

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