Thursday, July 29, 2010

Change of Pace

I tested my new walking shoes with a walk to the post office this morning. As I left the house, it was overcast and a little cool, very refreshing, and I had in mind a nice, long walk after I dropped off my mail. Then when I was a block away from home, the sun came out and it suddenly became very muggy, so I just took the long way home and still was all sweaty by the time I got back. I guess I should have gone walking before breakfast instead of after.

I've been talking about changing routines and shaking things up. This came from something I read for my medical school work (I am not in medical school. I used to work at a medical school and I still do freelance work for them.). According to a psychologist, the way a vacation helps refresh you is by changing your patterns and habits temporarily. You're doing different things at a different time in a different place, and that forms new connections in your brain that allow you to look at the old stuff in a different way. You're also thinking about different things if you can really get your mind into vacation mode. Then when you return to reality, your mind is refreshed for dealing with the usual things. That's how I still felt like I'd had a vacation back when I had a day job and I used my vacation time to go to writing conferences. It was really just doing a different kind of work, but because it was different, it was refreshing. Ditto with my very non-restful typical vacations. I may come home physically exhausted and with impressive blisters all over my feet, but I'm mentally revived. And that's how a "staycation" can work as well as a trip, as long as you're changing your routine and thinking about things other than work.

It becomes trickier with a life/job like mine, where what I do all day is what I used to do when I took vacation time from my job. There's not a huge mental difference between hanging out at home and reading reference books and hanging out at home and reading for fun. I also don't have the time right now to completely step away from work because I've got a book I need to develop. I'm not trying to do full-on vacation mode, just shake things up a little, refresh myself and switch mental gears. Normally, my "staycations" involve not doing writing stuff, but keeping up with the business stuff, like answering e-mails, keeping up with marketing activities, etc. This time, I'm trying to just do the creative part of my work and put business aside for a while. I know my agent's out of the office, so I won't likely have anything to deal with from her. I'm letting the fan mail pile up a bit because I need a break from finding new and exciting ways to say that it's the publisher who doesn't want to do book 5 and other publishers aren't interested in picking up the next book in a series where the backlist is still with the previous publisher (yes, we've tried). I know I'll have to deal with a ton of e-mail when I go back to "normal," as well as a lot of record keeping, but it's fun being purely creative for a while and completely immersing myself in the developing book without much intrusion from the real world.

I'm also trying to shake up my schedule some, doing "morning" things in the afternoon or "afternoon" things in the morning. I'm trying some new things or new approaches to doing the same old things. The physical therapy is helping with that, since it automatically forces schedule changes. I think it's also good for me to spend a lot less time online, even for fun stuff. I may go back to "normal" after next week, and I am planning a real "vacation" in the fall, after I get this book proposal done. I may not go anywhere (travel isn't very appealing to me at the moment), but I'll try to act like I'm at a nice resort while I'm at home.

And I do think it's working. I've come up with some things that are outside the norm for me -- different types of characters and different approaches to characters. One may be a risk: in the age of ass-kicking heroines, this one is going to start as a bit of a waif, someone who is sheltered and innocent and who has no idea how brave she can be, so she lets others come to the rescue. She will grow and change, of course, and that's rather the idea, getting to see her grow stronger. It's very Sarah Connor -- she was a meek waitress at the beginning of The Terminator. It wouldn't have been as interesting a story if she'd been a Marine or an FBI agent. Now we'll see if publishers will go for a character who's not busting out the ninja moves with multiple weapons in chapter one, and we'll see if I can pull off showing her potential for strength even while she's cowering at the beginning.

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