Thursday, June 30, 2016

My Summer Break

I roll out of bed in my parents' house an hour earlier than usual for our special morning excursion - blueberry picking!

At 7am, it's already 75 degrees outside, with temperatures expected to climb to the low 90s.  My mother hands me a pair of thick wool socks. "My boots are too big for you, so these will help keep your feet from slipping around." Wool and hot weather don't mix, but I put them on obediently. She's the expert here, having been to this orchard many times during blueberry season. 

I don the rest of my pre-determined uniform - long pants, long sleeve windbreaker, and baseball cap. I look ridiculous, but my mind remains focused on the beautiful task ahead.

A ten-minute drive and a five-minute ride in a tractor-pulled wagon later, I'm picking ripe, fresh blueberries while standing in a row of bushy plants. Heavy rain the day before has washed the earth clean and the berries look gorgeous. "Whatever you eat now is profit," my dad says with a chuckle, popping a fresh blueberry into his mouth.

For the next few hours, we each have our own blueberry picking energy. My dad is focused, my mom is determined, and I am... relaxed. This is what vacation looks like - nothing to do but breath fresh air, pick blueberries, and slow down.

I needed this vacation.

Everyone needs a vacation, of course. My overworked sister getting her MBA while still seeing patients full-time as a plastic surgeon, my brother and his wife, the DC power attorneys who are fixing up their place to sell while looking for a new one - they deserve vacations more than anyone I know.

But I decided to take one too. Because after writing a spec script in 11 days to submit to the writing fellowships, a realization hit me --

As a writer attempting to break into the competitive world of television writing, I spend every moment of my life in stress, anxiety, and fear.

There is no down time, no end of my work day when I leave my writing behind. The expectations are always there so the work is always there. My thoughts are constant and get tangled into each other like a thicket. 

Here's a typical ten second window into my mind --

"This story isn't working and I have no idea how to fix it. Is it even any good? Maybe it is too much like that other show and I should throw it away and start over. Why didn't that showrunner hire me? What could I have done to sell myself better in that meeting? I need to be writing more. I need a bigger portfolio. I need to finish my book. Maybe I'll never be good enough to break in. That means I just wasted the last 8 years of my life. I should have gone on more dates in my 20s instead of focusing on my career. I would probably be married with a kid by now. Is it too late for me? Will I ever get a job? Will I ever be good enough? Why, God, WHY?!?!"

I know I'm not alone in this - all writers have these thoughts. They come with the territory when you're an artist. But these thoughts have been running on a nonstop loop in my mind for the last eight years. Eight years of self-doubt, self-flagellation, and self-judgment.

Time for a break.

I've been pretty good with my 2016 write-every-day #365project up until now, only missing a day or two here and there. But for the month of June, I decided to take a rest. I haven't been writing every day and I haven't opened Final Draft once. I'm letting ideas swirl and just be without immediately trying to force them into story. I'm having long overdue coffee dates with people, watching television shows I've been missing, and - gasp - reading a book. I'm allowing myself to relax and it's been heaven.

My writing doesn't need me this month. My writing needs new perspectives that are not going to emerge while I'm feeling so exhausted and spent. My writing needs me to take a break and recharge so I can jump back into my work excited and renewed. My writing needs this vacation too.