Take a Pause in Your Work

Thursday, October 03, 2019
A photo from a day of pause I took at the end of summer.

Writing has its ebbs and flows.

This week I’ve also received three rejection letters from two contests I entered and had high hopes for. This included two short stories and one essay. My young adult novel also did not rise in the ranks of the Wattpad.com “Watty” Awards, so to be honest, I’m feeling pretty down in the dumps about my lack of progress.

I also just came off a freelance project that turned out to be more of an undertaking than I was prepared for and required me to read and review a stack of novels. I haven’t read anything for my personal pleasure this summer, and it’s wearing on me.

I’ve learned an important lesson. Don’t take on a project or gig just because you can. You have to weigh the pros and cons of whether the benefits are worth your time. In my case, they didn’t turn out to be in the above project. But, I’m a woman of my word and I strive to bring integrity to my work, even when I realize I made a mistake accepting it.

Even though I should be working on my next deadline for my day job, I’ve tried to give myself grace this week. There are tumbleweeds of dog hair piled up on the hardwood floors and while the laundry is clean, it is still in piles to be sorted and put away. My desk is overflowing with notes and papers. While I was tempted to stay in and hermit this week, out of the blue one of my writers at the magazine I work for urged me to meet her for lunch today. She writes our food column and we met at local café, where we sat on the patio and I indulged in a grilled white bean hummus sandwich with gooey slices of mozzarella, spinach and a side of homemade pickle chips. Before I left, she gave me a bar of one of her favorite dark chocolate brands, and I went on my way.

As I sit here reflecting, I’m almost in tears. After feeling sorry for myself, this person took time out of her week to connect with me and talk to me about our kids, our work, our shared love of food. She gave me a gift when I should be gifting her for all the work she does for me!

This will be something I put in my gratitude journal tomorrow. For now, I’m not rushing to clean off my house. I know the rest of the week will be full of meetings and a work reception. There will be plenty of time to meet my next big deadline. But there will not always be plenty of time to take care of myself, even if I say it’s something I prioritize.

Sometimes it’s okay to take a pause in your work—to put the phone aside, shut the computer, and flip over your to-do list. For me, I’m going to search out one of the novels I purchased this summer but never got the chance to read. Even if it’s only for a few hours.

Can you tell when it’s time to take a pause in your writing and work? What do you do to unwind and decompress?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and magazine editor who loves to indulge in dark chocolate, true crime documentaries and thriller/suspense novels.


Cathy C. Hall said...

Admittedly, it's a luxury I have, to take a pause in my work because I'm not as pulled these days by other life stuff. So instead of working feverishly to squeeze two hours of writing work into a hectic day, I usually give myself a couple hours of down time to read and take a walk because frankly, I just can't do the writing thing for straight up eight hours! But even so, I don't get as much done as I plan and I'm pretty okay with that. :-)

It's a funny thing, though, Renee, that when we most need a break, we don't have the time to take it. And yet when we somehow manage to get a break in, we immediately realize how much better we feel!

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

When I need a break the most, I'm generally feeling pressured (must get this done!) so I don't take the break. Until my husband comes along. Then he'll challenge me to a game or drag me out to go do something fun.

Nicole Pyles said...

To give myself a pause, I made a promise to myself to not respond (and ideally, not check) my email after a certain hour during the week. Ano no checking/responding to email on Sunday. I swear giving myself that breathing room has helped me so much. And learning the art of saying no is definitely something I'm trying to master!

Angela Mackintosh said...

Hi Renee ~ I sensed something like this was going on, and you may have noticed that I didn't send you any batches like I usually would in Sept because I knew you had your end of Sept deadline! You're one of my best readers, but when you told me about your book load, I thought I'd give you a break. Hugs! :) I think it's important to look out for each other. Having lunch with a friend is a fun boost. I either do that or anything that involves unplugging--mostly nature walks, art shows, and swimming. :)

Marcia Peterson said...

I'm so glad you had that nice with your friend, Renee. Things like that can really make you feel better! I've been letting myself read a little during the daytime lately instead of just at bedtime. It's a fun little treat that feels decadent for some reason. :)

Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--This may be way too much TMI, but I read a lot in the bathroom. (If you're a Seinfeld fan, I have lots of books that have been red-flagged. They could never be returned. ;) Right now I'm reading Atwood's sequel to "The Handmaid's Tale" and since it's quite engaging, I spend more time than necessary in there.

Sorry about the above.

You know the old saying, "People won't remember you for your clean house and blah blah blah." It's true, but it's also true that you won't remember your own life for the projects you did and the clean floors your home had. You'll remember those moments of joy, of love, of passion.

You have kids. They should nudge you into taking breaks. You will blink and they'll be grown up and gone.

You have to take care of yourself. Otherwise, you won't be able to juggle all the work you do. Since you're incredibly busy, I'm sure you schedule things. How about scheduling regular breaks? Lunch with a friend. A walk. A thirty-minute reading (for fun) break. Perhaps if you put it on your schedule, it will help you get into a pattern... and help you see the value of taking time for yourself.

(Of course, since I've been AWOL from the Butt-Kickers for 17 months and have been lax when it comes to my writing, maybe you should not consider me a source of good advice. ;)

Renee Roberson said...

Cathy--I almost always carve out time in the morning for a walk or run on my greenway. I've become addicted to the fresh air and I don't know how I'm going to head back to the YMCA when winter comes!

Sue--I'm glad your husband is the voice of reason. My husband has the typical 8-6 schedule so he's also good about scolding me if I'm checking e-mails too late at night or in the evening!

Nicole--I think your new rule is great. And wise. Especially on Sundays! I think I'm going to try and put my phone away at a certain time in the evening and stop looking at it when I'm first waking up. It makes a world of difference.

Angela--Yeah, I definitely had my hands full there for awhile! I'm so looking forward to reading something of my own choosing. I picked up several books at MurderCon in August and they are still sitting on my shelf. I also love unplugging with physical activity, too. It's where I do most of my podcast listening! I keep telling myself I'm going to start scheduling coffee or lunch with friends at least once a week so I don't hermit too much.

Marcia--I also love reading in those hours after lunch if I can get a break. I'll take a book and go sit on my patio, which has some lovely ceiling fans. I'll settle in on the wicker loveseat out there and have been known to put the book down and doze every now and again!

Sioux--You cracked me up. I do a lot of reading in the bathroom, too, so I can't say much. I would die if I didn't have a few favorite books and gossip magazines in my basket in there! I mentioned above that I do schedule my exercise but I'm going to try and start scheduling coffee/lunch with friends in the future. That's the benefit of having a flexible schedule so I need to take advantage of it!

I loved hearing about all the fun ways everyone takes time for themselves!

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