Don't let it be said that I don't practice what I preach. In last Friday's post, Write What You Know? Really?, I discussed writing about feelings we are familiar with and letting the story wind around the emotions involved. Well, that is indeed what I have been doing lately. In particular, I have been writing about something I have really been in touch with - grief. An intense subject that's hardly guaranteed to put a smile on everyone's face, but that has been where my writing has taken me recently. It may come as no surprise, but exploring this subject has been an exhausting experience.
Let's say you've just sat down and written a lengthy amount of work - more than you ever have before in one sitting - and you only stopped out of sheer exhaustion. Mentally, you've just had an extreme workout, a 106-mile bicycle trip of the mind, which might even be more exhausting for you. To avoid that post-exercise burnout, you need to recharge your batteries a little. However, this doesn't mean you have to retreat from your process entirely. You just need a separate process to help you wind down and take in energy without losing your sense of excitement.
After my cycling trip, once I brought in my Schwinn and traded my sweat-soaked clothes for some more relaxing gear, I didn't dive on the couch and take a two-hour nap. I wanted to, but I didn't. I did a physical cooldown: Stretching, twisting about, taking deep breaths and drinking some water as my heartbeat slowed and my muscles relaxed. I helped my body go into recovery mode, making it more receptive to building itself back up. The next day I wasn't sore at all, my knees felt fine and my back was straight. If only I had done something like that for my mind.
As a writer, once you step back from a heavy amount of creating, go through a cooldown that lets your mind gradually shift from the intense process it has been enduring. Give yourself a chance to read something - preferably something light and fluffy rather than an intense head-scratching piece of prose. Let your mind take in the peace and serenity of what written words can create, and let yourself feel just what they can do. Slowly wind back from being the writer who just created something huge and wonderful, and give yourself a chance to enjoy something else only tangential to writing. Give yourself a mental cooldown, and your writing batteries will charge right up again.
As for me, I have been very careful to take breaks from writing about grief just so I don't burn out emotionally or dive too deep into an intense subject. I give myself cooldowns so that I can return to writing again sooner and approach it with more vigor and energy. My batteries charge up faster, and I feel I still have something to give. And I don't end up with the mental burnout like my cycling trip (and my calves hurt less).