Monday, August 23, 2010

Down Periscope

It was a good break, all in all. And taking a break – or “submarining” -- is the theme of this post, in fact.

I came up with this term, “submarining,” because I needed a way to describe the behavior of this friend of mine who, when she was going through a tough stretch, would simply drop out of sight, generally for months at a time. You wouldn’t hear from her, wouldn’t see her. All attempts to reach her would meet with failure. Then, when she was ready to face the world again, she’d reappear, like a sub coming back to port for fresh supplies.

Sub crew at the North Pole. You may not need to go to this extreme but then again, you just might.

I realize it’s just that time of year – August. People are slacking off a bit because it's a sensible thing to do in the summer. But it does seem like I’ve also heard more than a few folks contemplating taking long breaks from their blog, because life is pulling them away from it or because they are downright sick of blogging. Or, more often, because the demands on their time are such that they must choose between working on their novels or posting to their blogs.

And they feel guilty about it.

To which I say, fie! You shouldn’t feel guilty about it at all. (WHY do I not say fie more often? It's an awesome word.)

I’m here to grant you -- such that I have the authority to dispense such things -- permission to go into submarine mode.

As a writing teacher of mine once said, “At some point, you’ve got to just go off on your own.” How true it is.

Writers forums and critique groups and Twitter and blogging. These are all great support systems and also a lot of fun, but as we all know, too much fun can be a bad thing. It's kind of like that group of friends from high school who wanted you to come out with them on a Wednesday night and go cow-tipping. AGAIN. For like the fourth night in a row. And you’re like, sheesh, man, I've kind of had enough cow-tipping for one week, and besides, I should probably finish my college application essay. And they’re like, No way, man! Come on! After we tip some cows, we’re going up to the water tower to break beer bottles with sticks.

Well, maybe that was just my experience. My point is that our primary job as writers is to write books. To do that, you need time and no distractions. And that ‘no distraction’ thing might just require that you board that sub and get out into the Mariana Trench for a bit. Sometimes you need to be out in the still, deep water, where it’s just you, your work, and the giant squid attached to your metaphoric hull.

So if you do decide to go into stealth mode, don’t feel guilty. Just hang a note on your blog and go write. We’ll still be here when you return. Besides, we want to hear your tales of the sea when you come back. We especially want to know how you lost your eye and why you've developed a liking for tinned meat.

Of course, if you don’t like the sub suggestion, feel free to pick some other locale where you can get away from it all. Whatever works for you. I recommend you steer clear of any jobs as a winter caretaker at a resort hotel in Maine, however. That tends not to work out so well.