I’ll admit it. I am at my worst when I’m not writing (just ask my husband!) I’m grumpy, impatient and downright frustrated. I suppose most people who love their jobs feel resentful when they don’t get a chance to achieve what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called ‘flow’ – that ‘in the zone’ feeling where we feel so fully immersed in our tasks that time rushes by unnoticed.
To put all of this in perspective, I’ve had a quiet couple of days (this hasn’t happened in months) and by tomorrow I will be back to cramming it all in. But nevertheless, not being busy, even for a short time, is a strange, unsettling feeling. ‘Enjoy the time off while it lasts!’ Friends cry. ‘Go shopping!’ ‘Get a massage!’ But I have no interest in shopping (to my mind, and it’s not a popular viewpoint, clothes are to keep you warm and to stop you from getting arrested for indecent exposure) and I’m too tense for massages. So if you’re a writer and you feel anything like this, then you might find the following tips useful (if not, then ignore everything and hit the shops and get a massage!).
- Write a review for someone else
If you’re at a loose end, and you’ve read a book that you really enjoyed, then why not put your writing skills to good use, and write a positive review. It’s a win-win. You’ll feel the satisfaction that comes with doing someone else a good deed; and the author will be forever grateful that you have taken the time to share your thoughts. For the record, I recently posted a review of So Brightly at Last by Ian Shircore, which is a wonderful book about the hidden side of Clive James and is definitely worth a read.
2. Do some admin
Having some quiet time is a great opportunity to tackle those boring tasks that always get pushed aside when you’re in the middle of a writing frenzy. Tot up your income and expenses for the taxman; tidy your desk; or do some maintenance on your website (I have just cleared out 8,985 invalid comments).
3. Listen to podcasts
I have only recently discovered the joy of podcasts and I am on a continuous hunt for recommendations. They are a phenomenal source of information not to mention entertainment and they are the reason that I don’t dread the housework as much. Combine the folding of the laundry with your favourite podcast, or take it with you on a long walk (which I did this morning). You won’t regret it.
4. Write a blog
If you want to get that lovely ‘in the zone’ feeling, then sit down and write a blog. Despite what you may think, you do have something to say and now’s the time to say it. I used to blog pretty regularly on LinkedIn and I stopped when the work began to pile up. Finding the time always seemed impossible but I always felt a bit guilty that I had neglected this side of my writing. Now I feel better!
5. Treat Yourself!
Just because I have no idea how to treat myself doesn’t mean that you don’t. Make the most of your precious time off – meet a friend for a coffee, or wander around a bookshop, or use the time to plan your calendar (book tickets for the theatre or whatever you fancy). Either way, you won’t get the time back so you might as well enjoy it.
Emma Murray is a best-selling, award-winning fiction and nonfiction author and ghostwriter. Her first novel is being published in May 2020