I’m the kind of person who when faced with nothing to do, a long stretch of interrupted peace, finds something to do. I’m not good at relaxing. Mr. Maggie often refers to it as my “on/off switch.” He says that if I’m not “on,” I’m “off,” which usually means that I’m asleep. I have a hard time turning off my mind and my body, which is why doing yoga has proven spectacularly unsuccessful for me.
The last few weeks, however, have forced me to do just that—turn off while awake. I have just finished a day job project that required me to get twenty books revised and to the printer—all in India, no less—by the middle of June for a mid-July collective pub date. To say that the project nearly did me in is not an understatement. (For proof, you can ask either the northern half of Evelyn David or Susan. They have heard enough whining to last a lifetime.) I had to deal with the first round of edits on my next book (PHYSICAL EDUCATION, out in November) and then the copyedits. I have a number of other projects for work in various stages of readiness, and with varying degrees of author compliance. By say the twentieth of June, my brain was fried.
So, I decided to play against type and take a few days off. At first, it was an unsuccessful experiment, with me going deep into the bowels of the Barbieri basement (you remember, the one with the vermin) and beginning to clean. Three giant black plastic bags later and I was only mildly sated in my quest to bring order to the house. Suffice it to say, we still have a long way to go, but we’re getting there. Then there was the issue of packing child #2 for camp. That took all of two hours. I still had a lot of energy and not a lot of things to do.
I decided to read a book. And then another. I took long, meandering walks down by the river, through town, and even through the woods. I spent a lot of time at the Laundromat while waiting for the delivery of our new washer. I bought a notebook and started outlining chapters for a new book I’m working on. I wrote down a few ideas for yet another book. I wrote the beginning of the new Alison Bergeron book. And I started to see the benefit of this relaxing thing, this turning off of the mind. By turning off the mind, I discovered, you are actually turning it back on, and are able to think. And for a writer, that feeling is priceless.
I guess I’m finding that there is a lot competing for space in my over-packed brain so I’m going to have to think of ways to carve out time to get some thinking done, as sad as that sounds. When do your best ideas come? When you’re busy? Or when you’re “off”?