Writing and recovery

Back in August I wrote somewhere upwards of 12,000 words in nine days, or about 1,300 words a day, which doesn’t seem like much but is as much as I’ve been managing in a week for the last several months. It was exquisite. And then I came down.

In fitness, there’s a concept called a recovery day. When you’re training it’s important to find days to rest to rebuild your stamina. Circus artists and other athletes are notorious for failing to rest and pushing themselves to their limits, training to the point of injury. It’s easy to do. There’s a certain amount of pushing through the pain inherent in any physical discipline if you want to make gains, and it takes a while to learn the difference between a good pain and a bad pain. And of course there’s always the chance you will convince yourself that it’s a good pain when that is not in fact what it is.

To a lot of folks, the idea of good pain might seem sort of strange. When I started training more regularly at the gym and pursuing silks as a practice, I was very sensitive to things like muscle soreness and pinching fabric. It took getting to know my body to understand what was an actual risk, actual damage, and what was my body getting stronger.

I tell you all this because any creative pursuit is also like that. You only have so much juice, as it were. There’s a point when I am tired on the silks where I know that I have to get off the rig or risk hurting myself. Similarly, there’s a point where my brain stops making things. I can beat my head against the wall and all I will make is a pretty red stain.

Enter the recovery day.

One of the ways I tricked myself into writing so much in August was by switching between projects. I was trying to finish one project, but also struck by inspiration in a different one, and I ended up bopping back and forth. In fitness, a recovery day isn’t necessarily about laying on the couch. It’s about doing something different — doing yoga instead of swinging around in the air for example. Switching between projects sometimes gives me the ability to squeeze a few more words out each week, especially if one project composes a bit more slowly.

Of course, eventually you have to take a full rest day, or a rest week. I’ve taken those too since August (though in 2020 it seems like there just aren’t enough rest days no matter how many I take). Ultimately, not resting costs you more than resting does, if done well. Over September, with dayjob deadlines being a major draw on my time, I wrote in dribs and drabs. I let my brain store up words again. And I hope you, too, have been kind to yourself and let your brain tackle things at its own pace.

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