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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Text from the edge.

Ever seen that movie Postcards from the Edge? Well, if you have then you know Meryl Streep is perched on the edge of insanity, and one more teeny tiny strand of stress may push the neurotic woman over the edge. Just think of me as Meryl. I’ve spent the last four months writing my latest novel while surrounded by my young children who were home for the summer. Trying to write while juggling play dates, popsicles and potty breaks is no small feat and can leave even the best of authors frazzled. You may be asking why I didn’t just wait until school started again to finish my book. I was afraid I would lose the story in my head. And let me tell you, in my overcrowded brain there is A LOT of ideas, appointments, concerns, and trivial facts that are fighting for space. So I pushed through the summer and finished my novel just as school started again.

My plan had been to take a couple of weeks to recharge after this latest book was done. When the time came to close the laptop, I actually panicked about not writing anything new for several weeks. I had, and still have, all these story ideas clamoring to be told. Taking time off didn’t seem like an option. Then my husband, who can sometimes be right, told me to take just one day and think about all the reasons why it was important to take a little time off.

I dutifully did my homework and was shocked at what I found. Here are ten reasons that screamed to me I had to live life, even if just for a few weeks.

1. I had over 2000 pictures saved on my camera because I have not had time since last year to download and order them.

2. My feet look like I survived concentration camp because I haven’t taken the time for a pedicure in over a year. I’m a runner to really give you the nasty picture.

3. Cook dinner? What’s that? I thought cooking dinner meant going to Moe’s Mexican restaurant, and unfortunately my lovely little cherub children think so to. Time to change that.

4. I turned down going on a girl’s night out because I wanted to finish a chapter on my book. WHAT??? Who turns down a girl’s night out with their best friends? Time to rearrange my perspective.

5. I read an interview with an author who said he didn’t need a family or friends because he didn’t have time for them. I do not want to end up like this. My writing should enrich my life not edge it out and become my life.

6. I have not gotten more than six hours of sleep in four months. This is no good for wanting to look young!

7. I’ve cancelled my dentist appointment five times due to writing. My dentist called me personally to tell me my teeth are going to fall out. Just joking. But seriously, I need to get to the dentist.

8. I had a pulled groin and hip flexor muscle but didn’t finish my rehab because it took away too much writing time. Hugh???? I am neurotic about my kids going to the doctor whenever they need it, but I don’t have time for my own health. They need me; therefore, I need to take care of myself. I will repeat this until I remember it.

9. I have only read one book in four months. I have eight books sitting on my nightstand to read.

10. Someone asked me what year I was married and I stared at them blankly until I finally remembered. OMG! Time to relax, rest, unwind, live life and get some sleep.

I’d love to hear how you know when you need a little break.

Julie Johnstone, The Marchioness of Mayhem


  1. You want me to tell you how I know when I need a little break? You are asking the wrong person. I need a break or maybe a dozen, but I'm too busy. I've put a number of things on hold until I finish my last contracted deadline. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I'm not there yet.

    And... I'm pretty sure that when I get there, I'll have something else that demands my attention.

    Good luck and enjoy your break!

  2. I know I need a break when I start daydreaming about going back to work. Teaching 25 kids that are not my own sometimes seems less demanding than keeping up with my two little ones!

  3. Seems that "balance" in our lives is easier said than done. Just remember that engaging in your life fully will only inform, enhance and improve your writing. To that end, let's get pedicures this Friday or next week... :)

  4. I know I need a break when my disconnect from the "real world" makes me feel more comfortable alone than around people. When social graces fall by the wayside, it's time to break out of the bubble!

  5. Oh my goodness...I laughed pretty hard through your list because I totally understand. I'd be terrified to write my own top ten list, but there would definitely be a version of 1/2/4/6 and 9 on it.

    Having a young child at home (and another on the way) is tough on the writing. Just last night, my hubby and I were brainstorming ways to meet my goals/committments and still be a wife and mother.

    Enjoy your well-deserved break. I, however, had better get this first draft done before the baby gets here in January!!! :)

  6. I knew I needed to take a break when I had little interest in doing things with friends in my free time. One of the other writers in our group takes weekends off from writing. That isn't completely feasible for me since I work out of the home three days a week, but it did make me start thinking of my writing as a job. I sure don't want to work all the time. So, when we leave for weekend trips, I take a book to read instead of my laptop.

  7. All of the above and more! Omgosh I've only lived in this area for a few years now and my hubby and I don't know anyone other than co-workers who're either much younger or much older than us. So we don't get to have nights out at all. The two of us haven't had a date night since the little one was born. I need a break! I really need to sit down and come up with a way to at least take some time for myself if nothing else. Great thought-inducing blog Julie!

  8. It is so important to replenish yourself, especially when you're a writer, because it can be a very draining occupation. The hard part is it makes us feel guilty when we're not constantly tapping away at the keyboard, getting the word count up there.

    BUT, writing isn't just about pouring words onto paper. That's the end result we're after, of course. But those words won't mean much if they aren't connected to a rich life experience. We want to share our view of the world with those who read our books, but in order to do that, we need to experience the people and events around us.

  9. So glad you posted this, Julie. I have cancelled a hair appointment 3 months in a row. I am determined to keep it next week, because I look like a scarecrow! The only thing I have done for myself these past months is keep a weekly massage therapy appt for my shoulder. Without it, my shoulder freezes & it's incredibly painful to write. But the whole time I am on the massage table, I'm mad about the time wasted, when I could be writing!

  10. I have a few on your list and it made me laugh. I thought staying at home would be easier. But, I always seemed to keep appointments. I have cancelled my dentist appointments 3 times and have the same feet problem :) But, more than anything, I start thinking of different places to vacation. Not that I don't want to go all the time..... But, it usually doesn't consume my thoughts as it is pretty regularly, right now. And, have you seen my desk and house, that should show it is time to get away. ;)

  11. Julie, I'm not good at time management, and when I'm writing, I can't think of anything else. But I always schedule a week in between writing projects to fix up the house and do all those errand that I've been putting off. I find it a lot easier to do that between projects than to try to work it in when I'm trying to make a self-imposed deadline.

  12. I travel for my job usually three days a week, so by most Thursday evenings I am needing a break from the stress of getting myself just from city to city. It's a really odd feeling to wake up in a hotel room and have to think - where am I?

    The other key indicator to me that I am too stressed out and need a break is if I feel like I might explode if one more person calls me and asks me to fix a problem for them. And when your job is to support and problem solve for 120 stores, it's time for a long weekend when you feel that way. Plus, there has to be something left in me to be a good friend to all my wonderful girls and still look for Mr. Right. All you can do is take it all one day at a time - then have cocktails and pedicures to help make it more bearable and a little more interesting!!