Thursday, December 1, 2011

Creative Fatigue

Only once have I ever stayed up all night "just for the fun of it." Sure, I've been awake 36+ hours during international trips, due to the logistics of traveling across multiple countries and time zones. But as for staying up all night just to prove that I could - yeah. Once was enough.

Here's how I knew I was not designed to pull an all-nighter, except under great duress: During high school, I went to a friend's house for a slumber party and stayed up all night. We did absolutely nothing, but it was the principle of the thing: I had boasted I could stay awake all night, and so I did.

I came home early on Sunday morning, just in time to find my family walking out the door for church. My mother instructed me to get ready (being home in time for church was the condition for my going to such a party on Saturday night.), so I obediently went to my room to dress, after promising to meet everyone at church as soon as I was ready. I put on my blue-and-white dress suit with the kicky skirt, fixed my hair, slipped on what I thought were my nice white heels, locked the house, and set out to join my family.

Thirty minutes later I parked in front of the church, but well back in the parking lot for all I was so late. I walked slowly across the asphalt, feeling the strain of fatigue threatening to bring me down. The temptation to curl up and sleep was such a threat, in fact, that I was unsteady on my feet.

Wearing heels? Not a good idea today, I told myself.

It wasn't until I reached the doors of the church that I realized that I wasn't merely tired - I was struggling to walk normally. The door greeter, however, had pity on me and pointed out what I had neglected to realize at the house: I had put on mismatching shoes.

More than that, I had put on one high heel and one flat, open-toed sandal.

My mother, who was waiting for me just inside the door, looked at my dejected, lopsided appearance and shook her head.

"Go home and sleep," she said.

I gladly obeyed.

November this year has left me feeling only slightly more oriented and rested than I did that Sunday morning. I haven't pulled any all-nighters, but I have juggled three jobs amidst pushing through my 51,000 word count for NaNoWriMo. Oh - and there was also that trip to Colonial Williamsburg with my students a couple weeks ago. And Thanksgiving. And music practice and church and tutoring and stuff.

You know - just a big ol' scoop of life. And then some.

The result is that I'm feeling somewhat creatively fatigued. Notice that I did not say I am creatively exhuasted - that's a different thing. I still have as many ideas bouncing around inside my head as I ever did; but right now I just don't have the energy to act on them. When I crossed the NaNoWriMo finish line last Saturday night, I immediately put it away until mid-December, at least. Right now I'm focused on recharging my batteries so that I'm equal to the task of taking up my project again in a couple weeks.

One way I plan to do this is to indulge in some "fun reading" for a change. As a humanities teacher, I've always got my nose in the classics; but I've decided that I'm also going to read some fun, recent, non-classics over Christmas break. I was interrupted a while back with Hood, by Stephen Lawhead, so I've picked that one up again. I've also discovered - thanks to the wonderful pep talks that NaNoWriMo sends out - the fantastical imagination of Brandon Sanderson and his Mistborn Trilogy.

Slipping into these reads have been like falling into a hot bath after a very long, hard day. It soothes all those sore literary muscles that I've stretched daily for the past thirty days, and makes them restful and limber for the next round of wordmongering. I hope all my fellow WriMos are treating themselves similarly. We all know the wisdom of reading while we write, but after such a grueling literary month it pays to balm our bruised literary egos with reminders of why we do what we do.

Besides, we can't afford to go into our own literary endeavors with a galumphing stride, or plot our own course with unequal shoes. Heels and sandals just don't go together, after all.

Take this time to make sure you're properly rested in your craft, so that you will not only be well equipped for the challenge, but so you will become, in turn, a restful literary bliss for someone else.

What do you do to recharge your literary batteries? 
What books are you reading for fun right now?


  1. I think I feel a bit like that, but not so much from my writing. Truth is I haven't done much writing lately, because I'm fatigued from everything else in life. What can I say it's the end of the year.

    I also want to read Hood by Stephen Lawhead. What an author! I'm currently reading his book The Skin Map which I'm really enjoying.

    Ironically, I recharge my batteries by taking time for myself to do creative writing.

  2. I usually can't stay away from creative work for more than a day. I get restless and bored. A day of movie-watching or reading and the work starts creeping back into my mind.

    I usually relax by starting one of the hundred little projects that tempted me during Nano. Things that don't have to be big and serious.

  3. Fun post, I loved your anecdote.

    I recharged with some left brained activities. A little bit of Calculus, matrix algebra, and I tried to formulate a few hundred String Theory equations. It didn't take long for my right brain to speak up and get raring to go again ;-)