No Rest for the Weary Writer

So, my plan was to take yesterday, today, and tomorrow to just relax. I’m in a transition period with classes, so I don’t have too many papers to grade (only about 30 this week, probably only 15 or so next week), and it seemed like the perfect time to get some rest. So, this morning Alayna and I went out to practice some spear techniques and wound up putting together the first half of a spear form. We were planning on relaxing all afternoon… that didn’t happen. Instead, my pastor called me and asked me if I could drive a very ill (long-term condition) Christian man to a city about an hour away and make sure that he got a hotel room and had some money for the next couple of days before he caught a flight home where he could be taken care of by close friends in his own church. So, I spent a good part of the afternoon doing that. Then we spent the evening with our niece and nephews at a local carnival, which was good… but not exactly relaxing.

When we finally got home, we relaxed for a little bit and then I sat down to write this post. You seem I am quite familiar with the lack of rest. We need rest–physical rest, emotional rest, intellectual rest, and spiritual rest. Alayna and I haven’t had much of any of these in the last few months. I’ve been an insomniac for most of my life, and so I can tell you exactly how a lack of physical rest affects me. I can function relatively well (70-80%) for about the first 40 hours without sleep. My function decreases progressively, but I can still be trusted to do most things (i.e. watch children, drive, do my job, etc) and I can do all of these things at a passable level. Once I hit 45-50 hours without sleep my function decreases again, this time to probably 40-55%. I can still do all of these things, but my driving is just the other side of what might be called safe, the decisions I make regarding the care of children may not be the wisest, and my comments on student papers may not make a lot of sense. Once I hit about 80 hours I stop being able to do any of my normal tasks passably well, and at around 90-95 hours I start hallucinating. By around 110 hours without sleep I’m nearly catatonic. I’ll be curled up on the bed, a sofa, or some corner of the floor muttering things that make no sense whatsoever. So, I can tell you from experience that physical rest is a necessity. However, other forms of rest are just as necessary.

We need time to relax emotionally, to feel safe, secure, and be able to shed stress and the many impacts that it has on us. Some authors have linked neuroses and even full-blown disorders such as OCD, ODD, or ADD/ADHD to stress (though they may or may not be correct in doing so, personally I believe that some disorders can certainly be worsened by stress, and that some examples of some disorders may be caused by stress, but I doubt that every example of any of the above disorders is caused by stress). So, times of emotional rest, relaxation, and stress free environments are very important for our ability to function normally. Similarly, we need play time. Now, I disagree with some who argue that we need time to turn our brains off and ‘veg,’ but we need time to engage our minds in significantly different ways. Play or ‘deep play’ can be a good example of emotional and intellectual rest in children. In many adults hobbies can serve the same function. While a child might spend three or four hours immersed in playing with G. I. Joes, an adult might spend that same time immersed in woodwork, miniature model painting, or playing a challenging game of some time. It is important to note that we don’t simply turn our brains off during such times, but we do alter their functioning to a point that they can rest from their normal duties. For instance, a laborer who spends all day figuring out how to solve complex logistical problems might come home and rest by engaging in stories and thinking about how those stories reflect the world. On the other hand, a scholar who reads all day and spends his time engaging in deep, critical thought might rest his mind by playing challenging games, solving puzzles, or engaging in stimulating creative hobbies. The point is that intellectual rest is not the same as just shutting down.

Spiritual rest is probably the most neglected and least understood of these four kinds of rest. Spiritual rest, for the Christian, is an important time of reconnection with, submission to, and reliance upon God. This can often be accomplished through prayer, bible study, or meditation, but the key is that we stop trying to do things ourselves and instead refocus and rely on God to be the sovereign lord of the universe. It is easy to engage in any of the above practices without engaging in any kind of spiritual rest. This happens when we come into these practices with the idea that we have certain expectations to uphold and that we need to manage them ourselves. This is not restful because the focus and the pressure are still on us. Instead, spiritual rest happens when we take time to spend with God simply in order to spend time with God and relax into him.

Hopefully, moving forward, Alayna and I will have some time to rest in all of the above forms. I think that we both deeply need it, and I’m guessing that some of you do as well.

On the Necessity of Writing Sabbaticals

restIf you’re, like me, an obsessive-compulsive writer who gets stressed out by not finishing things, taking a break can be difficult. This is especially true during November, or as most of you know it, NaNoWriMo. I have never participated in this insane push to write a novel from start to finish in one month, partially because the past six years of my life have been stressful enough without trying to write a whole book in such a condensed period of time, but also because the pressure I put on myself is enough to make me crack without additional external pressure. I seriously hate taking a longer than anticipated time to finish my projects; it’s stressing me beyond belief right now that I haven’t done much with my novel in two months, despite the fact that said lack of progress is due to moving to another continent and taking up a new job. Y’know, normal adult stuff that is naturally going to get in the way of side tasks in general. But something I’m learning right now is the benefit of taking a break from my writing. Not just one project, mind you. I’m talking all of my non-RPG projects. As of today, I’m on a complete writing break for a week. I find that when I’m having trouble writing and am unable to put words to paper, taking time off for a bit, even if it’s just a day or two, helps me re-exert control over the process. Suddenly it’s not that I *can’t* write at that time; I’m *choosing* not to write. That simple act of controlling the situation actually helps me with the writer’s block when I return to my work because then I’m in the mindset of “I chose to rest; now I can go back.” This only works if I take a sabbatical from writing altogether. No idea why, but that’s the tru9h of it. It also relaxes me by taking my brain out of freak-out mode and allows me to redirect my creative energies elsewhere, such as into dancing or learning Polish. If I try writing another project during a mental freak out, I end up just stressing out about how much I should be working on the other project and how annoying it is that I can’t progress any further. Sometimes, you really do just need to take a break. It’s okay to take time off (though maybe not this week, if you’re doing NaNoWriMo). Just make sure that you set parameters for yourself: how long the sabbatical will last, what other hobbies/projects you’ll work on during that time, and what you’ll start work on when the break is over. If you’re exhausted and haven’t gotten much writing done lately, take a break. Have a Kit-Kat. Listen to a Dalek Relaxation Tape. Your stories will thank you for it.


Sunday Picture Post

Well, as you all know, we like to take Sundays off here at the Art of Writing. Personally, I will be doing some work, going to church, and then cleaning the apartment some, working out, and reading Etienne Gilson’s Reason and Revelation in the Middle Ages and The Philosophy of Thomas Aquinas (though I’ve already read parts of the latter). I can’t speak for the other authors, but I’m sure that they all have equally robust Sunday plans. I did dig through the bowels of the google search engine to find you this though:

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Sunday Picture Post

So, last night was the celebration of a friend’s birthday and we all went to a restaurant that serves a combination of burgers and sushi… it was interesting, and very good. A lot of the stuff on the menu was some kind of fusion of the two types of food, and there were some surprising combinations. I had what amounted to a sushi sandwich with ‘buns’ made out of spring roll wraps filled with sushi rice and crab meat and then briefly cooked to harden the wrap. Anyway, as you all know, we like to take Sundays off. However, in honor of our dinner last night, I went and found this:

Ninja Burger! Your food in thirty minutes or less... or we commit seppuku!
Ninja Burger! Your food in thirty minutes or less… or we commit seppuku!

Sunday Picture Post

Welcome to the day after the Sabbath. Yes, I know, I’ve mentioned this before… I just like mentioning it. Anyway, you probably know that we take today off from the blog. So, instead of a nice 400-1000 word post or a 200-400 word writing exercise, you get my random ramblings (that was intention… just in case you didn’t notice) and a weird picture that I dredged up from the depths of the google search engine. Also, apparently I’m boring. I’ve been informed of this by several people now, so if you hadn’t realized it yet, I am. I thought I should let all of you know :D. Here’s your picture:

I love this piece. Not sure who did it. I couldn't find any source information. However, if it is yours, please let me know. I would love to give you credit.
I love this piece. Not sure who did it. I couldn’t find any source information. However, if it is yours, please let me know. I would love to give you credit.

Sunday Picture Post

Well, it’s that time of the week again! I got to play Zombicide for the first time last night, which was rather enjoyable. It was, at points, ridiculous and there were several tense moments in which it appeared that we would all be horribly eaten by zombies. However, we escaped and enjoyed the evening. So, I hope that you’ve enjoyed your own weekend, and I’ve found a rather beautiful picture for you today. Enjoy!


Sunday Picture Post

So, welcome to Sunday! It’s that time of the week again for us to take a break. So, I hope that you’ve all had a wonderfully fulfilling and engaging week and that all of your wildest dreams have come true. Obviously, this probably didn’t happen, but I can still hold out hope that it did. I also went and found this for all of you! I hope that you enjoy it.

I'm not sure who this belongs to, but I found it here. If it's yours, it is awesome!
I’m not sure who this belongs to, but I found it here. If it’s yours, it is awesome!

Sunday Picture Post

Welcome to the end of the week, everyone! Or the beginning of a new week for some cultures. Honestly, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most people probably wouldn’t recognize a strict beginning or end to the week in the first place… except maybe Friday. Anyway, you all know that we take Sunday’s off here at the Art of Writing, but I’ve found some awesome artwork for you today, so I hope you thoroughly enjoy it.

Ok, this was submitted to Fanpop by Miketo, and I have to say that I just love this piece. Both the detail work and the sheer scale of the dragons involved. I think the little tower down on the peninsula really makes the picture.
Ok, this was submitted to Fanpop by Miketo, and I have to say that I just love this piece. Both the detail work and the sheer scale of the dragons involved. I think the little tower down on the peninsula really makes the picture.

Sunday Rest Day

Well, I have to start out by apologizing for the late post. My only excuse is that I got a total of about 4 hours of sleep between 10am Thursday and 9:30pm Saturday. It’s flimsy, I know, but trying to get everything done in my haze I completely forgot about today’s post. That being said, I found a couple of extra special pictures for you all today!




Sunday Picture Post

Well, it’s that time again. I’ve got a pretty awesome photo for you today, so I hope you all enjoy it. Also, if any of you haven’t seen the show Defiance yet, I encourage you to check it out. It is thoroughly awesome so far!

(Photo Credit)
(Photo Credit)