Saturday, September 7, 2013

Entry # 173 - "Cut Yourself A Break"

A Perfect Sailing Day - Jan Bowman - Sept. 6,  2013
Whether you believe George Eliot's quote: "I have the conviction that excessive literary production is a social offense," or not, writers set ambitious writing goals and objectives for themselves and can find themselves getting into a 'kind of funk' when they fail their own expectations. I fall into that habit of mind myself sometimes.  I am reminded that goals are larger and long-term, such as 'to write more or to write daily or to finish a first draft, or  to revise an existing body of work,' while objectives set specific numerical amounts of work by which one can measure progress, such as: 'to produce a set number of pages, words or write an identified number of hours each week or month.' Which is to say, that if your writing objectives align with your goal to finish your novel by the end of the year, then most likely, your goal will be met.

Bay Bridge in Distance - Jan Bowman - Sept. 6, 2013
Anthony Trollope said that "Three hours a day will produce as much as a man (or woman) ought to write..."(at one sitting). Whatever your personal writing goals and objectives - whether you chart your progress by the hours, the words, or the pages - most of the time such objectives are needed if you hope to get work done.  

But I also want to make a case here for writers to find a moment to gain a bit of perspective and to 'cut yourself a break' - which is to say, sometimes writers are much too hard on themselves. One writer friend I know gets so mad at herself when she doesn't meet her writing objectives that she won't allow herself to participate in anything else - in a sort of punitive response for her failure to complete her self-assigned writing tasks. I've told her that she's kinder to her children and friends than to herself.  And I do believe that if writers treat writing as a task that requires punishment for failure, maybe it's time for a reality check on why you're writing in the first place.  Writers get their lumps from others so often in the form of rejection letters and criticism, most don't need to self-hate.  My friend says, "I can't do anything until I get my essays finished and yet, I find I am hating writing."

I urged her to take a break. Cut herself some down time. Go to a movie or a play or a concert. Do anything other than write, and see if new ideas, a better perspective presents itself during down time.

And yes, for me, as well - writing is hard work too, and some days my work doesn't go as well as I'd hoped, but even on a bad day, there is a great deal of joy, of pleasure, of satisfaction in the process of getting words on the page.  And sometimes - it is important to remember that we live in an amazing world. 

Some days - like yesterday here in Maryland - was another one of those 'perfect days to go sailing' and so I set aside my writing objectives (one of which was to write an additional scene in a new story while the other was to post a blog entry) and played. And here is the blog entry, posted today and a different one from the one I'd intended, but one that insisted upon shouldering its way onto my blog. 

And, last night I dreamed two scenes for a new story I'm working on - so - a break gives the mind space to play and reconsider possibilities. 
John Steinbeck said, "We work in our own darkness a great deal with little real knowledge of what we are doing."    So - Cut Yourself A Break.  
A Distant Freighter on the Bay - Jan Bowman - Sept. 6, 2013

About Jan Bowman

Jan Bowman’s fiction has appeared in numerous publications including, Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, The Broadkill Review, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes and others. Glimmer Train named a recent story as Honorable Mention in the November 2012 Short Story Awards for New Writers. Winner of the 2011 Roanoke Review Fiction Award, her stories have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, Best American Short Stories, a Pen/O’Henry award and a recent story was a finalist in the 2013 Phoebe Fiction Contest; another was a 2012 finalist in the “So To Speak” Fiction Contest. She is working on two collections of short stories while shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection. She has nonfiction publications in Trajectory and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers.   Learn more at or

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