Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Guilty Pleasures

Can you sit and read a magazine without feeling guilty? Do you berate yourself for loafing when you should be accomplishing something? For example, if you’re not writing, do you feel you should be working on your To Do List? How dare you sit idly by and read, play video games, watch TV, or talk to a friend on the phone! You’re wasting precious time. Every minute that ticks away is a minute gone from your life.

Is this purely a writer’s angst, or does it apply to all Type A personalities? Maybe the solution is to program a half hour or more per day into our schedule for pure relaxation. We schedule hair appointments and exercise routines, right? So why not a Time Out? The brain needs a diversion from all that intense activity. You’ll work better after a break. Consider it necessary to productivity.

When you’re on vacation, do you get bored and begin to lust after work? Are you happy lounging by the pool or does your mind drift to projects waiting for you? If this is the case, perhaps a more active vacation is what you need. You’ll be so busy, you won’t have time to think about things back home. Or if your mind needs a challenge, solve a Sudoku puzzle instead.

Assign yourself a book to read so you view reading as a task to complete and feel a sense of accomplishment while enjoying yourself.

It’s difficult for a multi-tasker to kick the habit. What do you do to relax without feeling guilty about it?


  1. I tell myself I don't owe the world my writing. I'm not producing legendary tracts that will shake the halls of power and be quoted forever. I'm writing because it fulfills a need. So does resting. If I trust that I'm fulfilling the right need at the right time, I'm okay.

    Lest I sound too Zen, I should note that this usually doesn't work. But it's the mindset I aim for. I'm definitely checking back for other people's answers!

  2. I read your opening paragraph and thought "Has she been spying on me?" *-) I'm busy trying to cram as much as possible into each day.

    However, this does not apply to me on vacation. Then my thought is "how can I make the vacation longer?"

    Time off is a bittersweet thing though. I had a 4-day Thanksgiving break from a high stress job. In some ways, it isn't good to be reminded when you relax of just how much stress and fatigue it does cause.

    Likewise, on a 4 day break like that, I get a glimpse of what its like to actually be able to sit and think and write and plot.

    Which makes it all the more depressing when you have to go back to the drudgery.

  3. Nancy, like BK, you described me well. I always feel guilty when I'm not writing. I figure if I'm not producing, I must be slacking. But unlike BK, vacations are hard for me--I usually start relaxing on the last day just before it's time to head home. Your post is good food for thought.

  4. You're so right, Nancy, about the need for a break, and how you work better afterward. That's the reason I try to take a "writing sabbath" each week. I usually don't write on Sunday, try to lounge a little, read a little, watch a movie. It recharges my batteries.

    I've read that Dan Brown takes a break by hanging upside down for awhile (he's either recharging or doing research on bats for his new novel The Lugosi Code). I've tried that, too. Lying on the floor with my feet up on a chair, and totally relaxing for 15 minutes. That seems to work, too.

  5. As someone who has suffered from adult attention deficit disorder for many years, I have found that doing many things at once, means doing none as thoroughly as I would when I do one thing to its end before taking on another. I can multitask, but try not to.

    As a comedian said:
    "My wife says she is an effective multi-tasker. I asked why she couldn't have a headache and sex at the same time."

  6. I don't think I'd want to relax by hanging upside down, thanks, but lying down and putting your feet up for blood flow is a good idea after sitting for a few hours. I have to go away from home to really relax.

    That said, I'm going to practice what I preach and leave for a cruise and try to avoid plotting my next story while sailing on the high seas. Happy Holidays!

  7. P.S. I really am leaving for the port right now, so I will not be able to comment further.

  8. P.S. I really am leaving for the port right now, so I will not be able to comment further.

    That's always the best time to argue with a poster. So... multi-tasking (talking on the cell phone, jotting notes, doing a crossword puzzle and listening to Sirius rock) while driving 85 mph down Pacific Coast Highway at midnight is the very best way to relax and get things done.

  9. I remember a woman wrecking her car in Miami on the interstate and being killed when her car left the road and flipped over. A witness told the news reporter that seconds before she lost control she passed him doing at least 90 MPH and that she was looking in her rear view and applying makeup. He was pretty sure she was holding her cellphone against her ear with her shoulder, but couldn't be sure.

  10. I just give up trying to get anything done.

  11. I'm afraid that I relax by knitting. I can sit and think about my wip while making a scarf for the church to include in Christmas baskets.

    And the repetitive knitting is soothing, relaxing.