To The Writer Ashamed of Resting - The Violet Project Diaries - Entry 7
A diary series about the development of my writing career as a dark fantasy novelist.
One technique I learned in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is talking to yourself as you would a friend when you’re having a rough day. When I gave myself a rest day yesterday, I felt so guilty and ashamed. It felt like I was purposefully being unproductive and negligent of my career. I had to fight myself not to get on the computer and write something or blog something because I knew my cynicism wasn’t speaking truth. Really, I was just bullying myself because I’m used to setting unreachable standards and beating myself up for not reaching them. Too many times that has left me exploited, drained, and just miserable. So I wanted to write a letter to myself and to you, fellow writer, if you have trouble resting like me.
To The Writer Ashamed of Resting:
Shame is hard to understand, but if I were to explain why it’s so powerful it’s because it operates from a place of fear and guilt. Fear and guilt are very human things and since we are human, you know it’s incredibly unfair to shame yourself for being so. Something every human needs is rest. We rest when we are weary on any level of existence: the physical, the mental, the emotional, and the spiritual if you believe in that. You may have been taught to ignore the warning signs when your body, mind, and soul are exhausted and are asking for help. It’s time to stop that.
It doesn’t matter how old you are, fellow writer. You are in charge of your life and one of the ways you take charge is through writing, self-expression, analysis, arguments, or storytelling. You are the one who decided that writing is an essential part of your lifestyle, so why aren’t you living in a way to ensure that writing remains a priority? Beating yourself up over a rest day during an entire week of work is preventing you from living like a writer. Like I said, you’re in charge, so when you decide to overwork yourself, you’re also deciding to sabotage yourself. You do this because you’re ashamed, afraid, and guilty, but I want you to remember that when you’re in those flow moments, where you’re just inspired to write and the words just come, that is when you’re dignified, fearless, creating without regret.
One reason why you may be ashamed of resting is because resting often means being alone with your thoughts. Perhaps writing is your way of running away from that. Perhaps you’re the kind of writer that needs to socialize or go out or do something so you can escape the restless thoughts circling in your head. You must understand that your humanness is valid and we all cope with our internal crap in our own way, so I understand why you hide or distract yourself, but I want you to know that it’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to take a moment alone and let the thoughts and feelings out no matter how ugly they are. It’s okay to not have it all together. It’s okay to breakdown and release whatever you were bottling up before. Once you give yourself permission to not be okay, to be human, you’ll realize how closely linked your writing and everything you bottled up is.
We inevitably write about our humanness, realizing the number of perceptions about life and living is nearly endless. When you rest, you’re giving yourself a chance to explore those other perceptions and a chance to explore your own because you deserve understanding too. Trust me, all the anxiety you have is a common experience, but only you can truly understand and embrace it. Letting yourself rest may worry you because inner demons pop up to strike a conversation or your mental health fragments right in front of you. You feel powerless, but like I said before, you’re in charge of your life. How many times have you chosen to run from the demons and turn away from the fragments of your life scattered about? You can run or you can rest. I’m not saying rest alone is going to fix what’s going on with you, but rest will help you be aware of what’s going on. Rest is a form of reflection and there’s absolutely no need to pressure yourself while you’re learning about who you are.
Kafka said, “A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.” You may think this quote supports your stance as to why you should push yourself to write as much as possible and that you’ll get the rest you need when you’re dead, but I’m going to counter that with the claim that if your long-term goal is to be a writer and maintain the longevity of your writing career, then the smarter decision is to let yourself rest before you become that monster. Writing without breaks is a recipe for disaster as working in any other field without breaks can lead to burnout and poor health for the individual and whatever group they’re a part of. Think about all the jobs that help society function. Functionality is the reason why labor laws exist; the health and welfare of the worker should always be considered. When you’re a writer, you’re often your own boss or are working for someone who appreciates your craft and hopes you bring your best work forward consistently. Without rest you are not a functioning writer and if you become a less functional writer, that is what will bring you steps closer to being the monster courting insanity. Ultimately, not letting yourself rest is more than just voluntary enslavement and a poor choice for your wellbeing, it’s dehumanizing.
Fellow writer, you are human and shaming yourself for being so is like cracking a whip against your own back when you’ve already worked as hard as you could. To take charge of our own life is to understand our needs and wants through a compassionate lens. Be compassionate towards yourself when you are fearful, guilty, and ashamed with a day of rest, a moment of stillness, listening to what your body, mind, and soul are telling you. It’s okay to not be okay, but as long as you remain human and treat yourself as such, you’ll be okay. In fact, you’ll be more than okay. You’ll be writing more and writing better.
Thank you so much for reading. Please continue or start treating yourself fairly and with compassion.