Permission To Take The Day

Some days the words just will not come. They get stuck in your fingertips and pile up in your throat.

It happens no matter how good you are. It’s OK. Let the day be what it is.

One of the most profound gifts I’ve ever given myself as a writer is that when this happens, when the words just refuse to make contact with the outside world, I have carte blanche permission to take the day.

If I get to lunch and I have been fighting myself all morning, and nothing good has come of it, then I call it done. I stop working, and do something else, anything else, with no guilt and no anxiety about what I’m ‘supposed’ to be doing.

The next time I sit down to write, the words will come flooding out.

New ideas and powerful ways to present them rush to the surface, and I’ll have the most productive day I’ve had in weeks. Taking some spontaneous rest every now and then completely resets me, refreshes my gift and my love for the work.

But to do this you have to know yourself, and you have to observe yourself. It’s a practice, and a critical one for writers.

I know, because when I don’t practice self-observation, things go sideways real quick.

(As you may have guessed, today went this way. I did not pay attention to how I was feeling, and now I’ve spent 3 hours trying to write this email.)

Here are some questions I ask myself when I notice that the day is not going to plan:

  • Are you feeling a little bit stir crazy? If so, why? Would a walk solve this?
  • Have you started writing something a hundred different ways and deleted all of them? If so, are you working on the right thing? Have you done enough planning and research?
  • Have you started wondering if 1pm is too early for gin? If so, do you have the right kind of tonic? (Just kidding. Don’t drink to hit a deadline, kids.)

If you’re answering yes to any of these questions, and you’ve done everything you can think of to solve the issue, it’s probably a good sign to cut yourself some slack.

A little bit of grace goes a very long way.

Do something fun, have a nap, indulge yourself in a book or a swim or a daydream.

Good writing needs space. You can’t force great ideas or beautiful words. They won’t be coerced. You have to let them come to you, give them room, gently welcome them.

So take some time this weekend. Make space. Observe yourself, and be ready to work when the words start to come.