In the U.S. it’s officially the week of Thanksgiving, and what I call the first of the feasting holidays. This time of year can be a little stressful for some people.
In this episode, you’ll learn about time, guilt, and how to easily take time off from writing, and come back with ease and grace.
Links and things mentioned in this episode:
Don’t forget to grab your Guilt Free Time Off Guidelines and Tools freebie here! (or copy and past this into your browser: https://youcantoucan.com/guiltfree)
Intro and outro music from Uppbeat (free for Creators!): https://uppbeat.io/t/hartzmann/clear-sky
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Welcome to episode seven of the podcast. Seven episodes already!
The number seven always makes me think of the movie. There’s something about Mary. When Ted, played by Ben Stiller, picks up the hitchhiker, played by Harlan Williams, who tried to sell him on seven minute abs. And when Ted mentioned something about six-minute abs the hitchhiker goes all crazy on him.
I actually have that whole line. He spouts off memorized, but I will spare you.
Thanksgiving here in the us is only a few days away. When this episode airs my husband and I will be driving from Colorado to the St. Louis area to visit his family for this first of the feasting holidays we personally celebrate.
It’ll be so lovely to see them and to spend time with them. It’s a 14-hour drive, and the reason we’re driving instead of flying is, well, Denver’s airport is kind of a shit show, pardon my language, even when it isn’t the holiday season. And besides that, we like to bring our beloved pittie-mix Kira with us. She adores everyone and everyone adores her.
Because it will be on a sort of mini-vacation. I want to talk to you today about taking time off and the guilt that might accompany it.
But before we get into that. Let’s talk NaNoWriMo because, my friend, we only have nine days left nine days.
For today’s NaNoWriMo pep-talk I wanted an inspirational quote about momentum carrying you through to the end. But then I thought, wait. NaNoWriMo and Toucan20 are about little steps forward: 20 minutes a day, 500 words a session or a hundred or three.
And though NaNoWriMo is more about pounding the keyboard to death and getting a large volume word counts every day. it’s still a similar concept of small steps toward an end goal.
So instead I found this quote from Olympic silver medalist in long distance running Kara Goucher:
“Don’t try to rush progress. Remember a step forward, no matter how small is a step in the right direction. Keep believing.”
It reminded me that writing a novel is a marathon, not a sprint. I’m sure you’ve heard that before. And how apropos that the quote comes from a long-distance runner.
The goal is to keep going. The goal is to get your writing habit and practice solidified. Every small step is a step forward, three words, 300 words, 3000 words. It doesn’t matter how many words you add to your manuscript today and over the next nine days. What matters is: you are adding words to your manuscript.
And as Confucius says, “it does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.”
Keep going. The finish line is on the horizon. Keep believing and you can do anything.
Now onto the guilt of taking time off.
I have to tell you, it took me a long time to write this episode. Probably because talking about guilt gets into psychological territory.
There’s always fear around giving psychological advice or medical advice or even legal advice or any advice to be honest. I am not a licensed therapist. Everything we’ll be talking about in this episode is from my own experience and the experience of one of my friends in dealing with guilt and should not be taken as medical advice. If you or a loved one are struggling, please be sure to seek help from a licensed professional.
Okay. Disclaimer, out of the way, let’s get to it.
Time is fascinating. We don’t have enough of it. Sometimes we have too much of it. We run out of it. It flies by while we’re having fun or creeps slowly when we’re bored or waiting for something.
Time dictates when we get up. When we eat, when we go to bed, when it’s time to go somewhere or leave. It sort of control this, doesn’t it?
We are prisoners of time.
I’m envisioning like this busy city street with people in business suits, just kind of like dragging and slogging their bodies down the sidewalk while a clock hovers above them, scowling down like an angry sun.
We often have too much to do and not enough time to do it all. And that can cause some panicky feelings to creep in. I for one, have what I call a Time Crisis every once in a while.
I’ll talk more about that and how to get through it in a different episode. But essentially, I feel like I’m running out of time to do everything I want to do.
And by running out of time. I mean, I feel like the Grim Reaper himself is breathing down my neck, just biding his time until my time is up.
There it is again. Biding his time. My time is up. On that note, can time be down? I don’t think so.
We also spend time as if it is a currency, we can’t even earn back. And furthermore, what’s this nonsense about making time?
“Making time” is the biggest backhanded advice I, I have ever heard or has ever been created and doled out. Okay. Maybe not ever.
But, you know how those people, they say, “If you really want to do something, you have to make time to do it.”
Uh, gag me… with a spoon.
The reason I don’t like this concept is because it implies that if you can’t quote, unquote, make time for something, it must not be important, which is why Toucan 20 is so powerful. You don’t have to make time.
You can find it easily in your day. As I talked about in episode two, the meat and potatoes episode.
It really grinds my gears when people say you have to make time. And usually the people who say that probably don’t have kids or a day job or multiple passions and hobbies to pursue, or a healthy lifestyle to keep up on, or a dog to walk. You get it right?
They think it comes from a place of knowledge and profoundness, “you have to make time if you can’t find it.” Blah-blah-blah.
But really it’s just so… Insulting. Right? I hope you’re with me on this.
Another thing about time is we take it off. As if it is a cloak or a robe. And now we’re onto what I really want to talk about.
With the holidays fast approaching, you might be busy with extra activities that aren’t usually part of your average day. Your writing time might slide onto the back burner to make way for holiday activities and planning and stress.
So, you decided to take some time off and maybe every time you look at your computer or notebook or stone tablet, a little twinge of guilt enters your mind. Maybe even shame. Maybe even self-doubt.
You might feel wrong or lost or despondent, or like you might lose your talent or like you aren’t for-filled. For filling? Like you aren’t fulfilling your higher purpose.
You might feel like time is running out to become who you really want to be.
To help me with this episode, I had a chat with a friend of mine who just so happens to also be one of my Toucan students, as well as an author of historical fiction, Judalon de Bornay. Her latest title is Great Crossing.
I just set that up so it sounds like this is an interview episode, but it’s still just me jibber, jabbering away.
Sorry about that. There is one section coming up, though, in which I will directly put in a clip from our discussion. So you can hear Judalon’s beautiful voice and her beautiful words because she is just a wonderful person.
So to start off my talk with Judalon, I asked her how she feels about taking time off from her writing. She told me, she feels like her life sands are draining into the bottom of the hourglass and she needs to not take time off.
Look at that another time example, the hourglass, the sands of time, slipping away.
But she also told me something else that’s really interesting. She told me that when she does take time off she feels this freedom from anxiety that writing often brings her.
She said when she writes the writing takes control over her, it’s all she wants to do. She neglects other aspects of her life. She’s imprisoned by the writing. But when she takes time off, she also feels anxious because, well, she’s taking time off and the manuscripts are calling to her.
She spoke of the prisms of ourselves, how we have these different pulls of obligations of want and need.
Here’s that clip I told you about. Her words, her voice.
Having to get into all those different prisms of self and behavior that you are having to deal with. And I just got too mentally exhausted by it. So therefore, if you compartmentalize to the point where you can just ignore those little abandoned manuscript voices and cut yourself free, then you don’t have the the anxiety attached to them.
However, just like any beloved child or pet. Or anything you love, it’s always there. It’s always niggling at you saying, Please, please come back to me.
I for one can definitely relate to this anxiety while writing anxiety, while taking time off from writing, feeling the pull of the manuscripts, the control, the writing takes over me.
NaNoWriMo started while my husband and I were in Mexico City over Halloween. I wrote my first words on a brand-new manuscript in our hotel room. While at breakfast, inspiration struck. I’m using Dabble currently too, to write during NaNoWriMo because it automatically updates my word count on the NaNoWriMo website. So I pulled out my phone and started writing at breakfast. My husband thought I was texting. So I had to explain no, no, no. I’m writing. I had an idea. I had to write it down.
I had to get the words out on the page because sometimes sentences will just come to me out of thin air. And if I don’t write them down, I’ll, lose the magic of them. And I’ll try to write it later and the words will just not be quite right So I had to write it down at breakfast.
Now, luckily my husband understands this. He’s used to this kind of thing.
We started dating in October 2006. Like late October, 2006, which means at the very beginning of our relationship NaNoWriMo started. So he was there for me. He was always so supportive. Like you got to get your words in. Did you write today? Get your words. And so, It’s it’s great to have that sort of support.
So he knows that when I’m in first draft mode, this type of thing happens all the time. And if we’re out somewhere together and I don’t have my phone because let’s face it, I don’t always bring my phone, especially if he’s with me because I don’t want to carry it around. I have nightmares about having to carry too much stuff. It’s ridiculous.
So when we’re out together and I don’t have my phone and inspiration strikes, I use his phone to send myself a text message with what I wanted to write down.
So back to this anxiety though, because there’s also a sort of freedom. When you take time off from your writing, you know? Stick with me here.
The freedom comes from no longer having this need to find time to write each day. Or make time if you’re that person. There’s no deciding if I’m going to exercise at lunch or write. Or walk my beloved pittie mix, Kira. Or do something else. And that my friend is what really makes me feel guilty. I’m like, wait, wait, wait.
I have this freedom. I feel free when I’m not writing. Am I really a writer? Am I really meant for this?
I actually enjoy taking time off from writing. And I feel like I shouldn’t. Because it’s my passion. It’s something I love to do. It’s something I identify as. I’m an author. I’m a writer. I write. So I get really anxious about enjoying time off and I get really guilty about it too. Like, I should not feel this joy when I take time off.
But then the minute I get back to it. I feel this sense of relief, like, yes. This is the warm, cozy blanket that I should be wearing around my shoulders all the time.
This is what I do and who I am.
And I remember how much I love it and how I will rearrange my schedule, if I have to, and I will use Toucan20, if I can’t make time or find time in my schedule. Because there’s always 20 minutes somewhere. You can always find it.
So here’s another example.
I have taken the better part of a year off from working on a novel length manuscript while I get this podcast going and other facets of my Toucan stuff out into the world. I have been keeping my finger on the proverbial pulse of fiction by writing short stories for my fans.
Before November 1st, while NaNoWriMo was drawing near. A, fear started creeping in.
What if I can’t write novels anymore? What if I’ve lost that ability? What if all I have left in my creative well are short stories or silly poems or podcast episodes.
But the moment I started thinking about my NaNoWriMo project, I felt that part of me unfurl like a sleepy dragon, shake the dust off its powerful wings, stretch, and prepare. The moment I wrote the first line of my new manuscript. That dragon took flight.
What is the point of the story? Well, my friend, Guilt accompanies taking time off. Anxiety accompanies, taking time off. Self-doubt, imposter syndrome, all those negative self-talk Creatures accompany taking time off. But you should not feel this way. We should not feel this way because sometimes taking time off leads to greatness.
I have another writing friend, Diana Blakely, who took years off from writing. Years, I tell you. She just started up again, not too long ago. And holy moly, her writing actually improved while she took that time off. I don’t even know how that’s possible other than perhaps, I don’t know, she matured over that time. Like a nice aged cheese.
It’s quite impressive. She has a YouTube channel. So if you want to check out her work, I will link to it in the show notes.
So let’s talk about how to take time off from writing during this often tumultuous time called The Holidays and how to get back into it once your break is over.
Now, if you experience other busy times in your life. These same principles can apply. Or if you just want to take a break from writing to focus on something else for a little while, same thing, these same little guidelines apply for those situations as well. So, how do you take time off from writing?
Well, the first step Decide, you’re going to take time off. Seems silly. I know, but that is the first step.
The second step is. Write down everything you know about your manuscript, what’s going to happen. What already happened. What could happen. All the little scenes you have in your mind that could make their way into the manuscript. Write everything down. Summarize what’s happened. Summarize what’s going to happen. Everything you need to know about your characters up to this point. Everything you want to know about your characters after this point. Just write as much down as you can.
The more you write down the better, because when you come back to it, you can get back into it quickly because you’ll have all these notes to look back on.
Okay. Step three. Decide on a date, you will get back to it. Okay. That is probably the most important step in planning to take time off.
On your first day off, if you feel any kind of guilt or shame or self-doubt or other negative feelings or thoughts creep in.
Recognoize. Oh, I have an accent recognoize. Recognize those thoughts. See them, let them flow, then forgive yourself for having those thoughts. Like. Honestly, say to yourself, I forgive myself for having these thoughts.
Because though I always preach about how you can Toucan write more in less time and write every day with this cool method called Toucan20. I also know that sometimes we have to choose to let something go in order to manage stress.
Here’s an example. Not too long ago. I was looking anxiously toward the future, as most people with anxiety do, and you know, these chronic worriers, we always worry about the future. Right?
February 2023 is going to be insane for me. Okay. I have a free trip to go on. Can’t pass that up, right. And my grandmother’s memoir book launch in Coronado that month. And I had some volunteer obligations that month. Plus I’m planning to launch my Busy Author Toolbox course in February too.
So I looked at my list of things that I had to do now. Obviously I couldn’t pass up a free trip. And my grandma’s book, which is her memoir that I’m producing for her posthumously is an important work according to the Coronado historical society. And it’s also really important to me to get that book out into the world.
And my course is also important to grow my Toucan business.
So, unfortunately the thing I had to let go of to ease my anxiety around the first part of the year was the volunteer work. And it pained me deeply to give that up.
I felt a lot of guilt and shame around doing that. But once I did, and once I let the organization know, I also felt so relieved, a great weight lifted from my shoulders, and I knew I had made the right decision.
I know that writing is an important part of your life. I know that and you know that. Just because you’re going to possibly put it on hold during the stressful holiday season or any other stressful time in your life it does not mean that you’re not a writer.
Follow the guidelines I said before. Okay.
Decide on a timeframe. So it’s going to be this data that day. Write down everything you know about your story, so you can get back into it when you do come.
And when your end date arrives here are your next steps to get back into it with ease and grace.
First, when you’re decided upon end date arrives, use the tools from the plan for anything tools quick reference guide you snagged in episode six.
Or grab the freebie I’m about to tell you about in the show notes of this episode.
Log a single Toucan 20 session.
The reason I say a single session is because as with every habit we have or practice, it is very difficult to get back into it after a period of time away. I’m immediately thinking about exercise regimens in particular. But the same thing happens with writing for me.
So if you only have to write for 20 minutes on that first day back, it’s a really nice, gentle way to ease back into your regular habit.
And then next continue to log a single Toucan20 session at the minimum for the next seven days.
Now, if you find this difficult. I’ve compiled the most appropriate tools from the plan for anything double episodes into a nifty guide along with these steps to take time off and how to get back into it. I even updated the show notes for both of the plan for anything episodes. To include timestamps for each tool. So you can easily find more info about the ones listed in the freebie.
Just in case you don’t remember everything about them or maybe you didn’t even listen to those episodes in the first place. I’ll link to everything in the show notes.
Now. I know as a writer, we often seek advice and thinly veiled desire for permission from outside sources. From friends, Family, fellow writers, strangers, anyone really.
I often go to my friend and USA Today bestselling author LS Hawker for advice and permission. I also seek it from my twin sister. Therefore, knowing this about myself as a writer and other writers who I know consider this Me giving you permission to take time off if you need it.
You have my permission.
Just be sure to follow the steps I talked about and get back to it when you say you’re going to.
I also must pause here and say that sometimes being able to escape to our writing and our fictional worlds can save us from stress. I have a bonus episode coming up for you all about how to use writing to survive the holiday season. So stay tuned for that.
Okay, so just really quick recap of how to take time off and how to get back into it. So, To take time off. Number one, decide on the timeframe, this date to that day. Write down everything you know. When your end date arrives, get back into it. Okay. With a single Toucan20 session or use some of the tools from the plan for anything quick reference guide. And then continue to log a single Toucan 20 session at the minimum for seven days. Once your seven days is over, and you’ve logged all these sessions you’ll feel more inclined to keep going and there you have it.
You’re back into your writing habit and your writing practice.
That’s all for this episode next week, I’ll be talking about breaking bad habits with the three Rs to create good habits.
Don’t forget to check out the show notes to download your guilt free time off freebie at YoucanToucan.com/GuiltFree.
And if you’re in the United States and celebrate Thanksgiving, have a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving.
Thank you so much for hanging out with me today. I really hope you learned a ton of stuff from this episode. Don’t forget to subscribe or follow the podcast on your favorite podcast app so you never miss a thing.
If you have any questions about this episode’s content, you can You Toucan in general or anything else you’ve seen, read or heard. Drop your questions at YouCanToucan.com/Questions.
Set your timer. Go Write.
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Claire L. Fishback
Author coach, project manager, published author, amazing wife, dog mom, artist, twin, and your host and guide to discovering your path to the writing life of your dreams!
Youcan the Toucan