Kill Them All: Knowing When to Not to Write


Disclaimer:  If you’re looking for fluffy, easy going Teresa,
today is not your day. 
You might want to go enjoy
your weekend and come back Monday. Just sayin’.

There’s a school of thought in the writing community to “just write.” No matter what, force yourself into the craft and progress will follow. Keep momentum up. Some writing will be brilliant, some will need a lot of revision tomorrow, and some will stink and get thrown out. But I’m here to advocate for the times we should simply put down the pen, step away from the keyboard, and avoid damaging our WIP (work-in-progress).

I have PMDD, basically really severe PMS. The worst symptoms for me are intense mood swings and depression. One or two days every month I feel like a completely different person. Today is one of those days. I’m standoffish, on the verge of tears, sarcastic (more than usual with a heavy slant toward cynicism), physically and mentally exhausted, and plagued with impossible to ignore negative voices in my head.

Thanks to medication that’s made a big difference and a doctor who’s talked me through what’s going on in my body, I’m able to identify these days for what they are and wait for it to pass. But it took an eye-opening experience to realize these days may require taking a break from writing.

Last month I sat down to write in the midst of a “feeling outbreak,” as I like to call it. I worked on rewriting a chapter in Good Graces. I felt proud to have worked through the awful mood. The next day I sat down and read over what’d I’d written. It was terrible. Not just terrible, it messed with the core personalities of one of my main characters. Subtle, out of character dialog totally changed his voice. Jack would never say that. Oh, good grief, what have I done! 

I took another day off to feel back to “normal” then went back to rewrite the scene properly. Crisis averted. (This is an obvious example of why you should always read back over your writing.)

This experience helped me realize that taking an intentional break is sometimes not just okay, but necessary…the responsible thing to do. Some of you have the ability to turn bad days into channeled productive energy. You know yourself so, of course, use your own judgement. But for heaven’s sake, if you’re like me and are prone to influences like raging hormones, awful days at work, bad news, etc. affecting your ability to write while maintaining focus on your intended vision – DO NOT WRITE.

Don’t wake up one day and realize you’ve killed off all of your characters and turned your historical romance into an apocalyptic fantasy. Just don’t.

But there’s no reason not writing should mean rolling over and playing dead. Instead? Pick up a book you’ve been meaning to read. Catch up on blog posts in your feed. Journal (purging the negative thoughts on a safe page far away from your manuscript is fair game). Take a walk outside. Meditate. Pray.

I know I’m not alone. Under which circumstances do you know you shouldn’t write or create? What do you do instead? Do you have a similar story about what happened when you wrote but shouldn’t have?

Published by Teresa Tysinger

Author of Contemporary Christian Fiction. Wife, mother, creative, and professional communicator.

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