Being a Sunday, we thought we might try and tackle the subject of relaxation because what better way to relax than write about the struggles we face in trying to relax.
We’ve been writing pretty much regularly now for around seven years. After leaving college, the amount of time we’ve been able to devote to it each day has lessened a bit with the realities of work and other commitments; but every day we try and put in at least two hours (and considerably more on the weekends). Obviously, we both love it. There’s something about writing that’s unlike anything else. Part of it is the challenge, part of it is the sense of gratification we feel. Fundamentally, we’re trying to entertain ourselves, and when we manage to do it, it’s a remarkable feeling.
But it comes at a cost. One of the most pernicious things about writing, at least for us, is that any spare time we have feels wasted if we aren’t writing. Thus, even when we aren’t writing, we’re thinking about writing, and belittling ourselves for nor doing it. We sit in our apartments and bite our fingernails and worry about the fact that we’re not writing. It’s not that we have writer’s block or anything. We know exactly what to write about. The problem could be more properly expressed as the malevolent whispers of our own internal critics; i.e., what you’re writing is shit; what’s the point of this; you’re not funny, smart, or nearly as good-looking as you think you are.
All of which makes relaxing a wee bit tough. Further compounding the problem is that what used to be our favorite past-time—reading for pleasure—has become monumentally difficult.
There are a host of reasons for why this is the case. First of all, most of the time we spend “writing” is really spent editing. Editing involves reading in a critical sense, which is an entirely different animal than reading something for pleasure and requires a lot more energy. It means reading at a snail’s pace; it means reading the same sentence twenty times; it means changing a sentence and then realizing that the sentence no longer works in its paragraph, and so changing the paragraph, and then realizing the paragraph no longer flows with the scene, &c. &c. &c.
Make no mistake: editing can be a lot of fun. In fact, it might be our favorite part about the writing process. Marking up a page with blue Marvy Le Pen pens (the greatest pens known to mankind, which, by the way, we’re not being compensated to endorse, but if you happen to be a mover and shaker at Marvy, we would be willing to sell our souls for a free box of your pens) is great. But this critical method of reading has seriously altered the way we read anything; it’s incredibly hard to shift out of it. And while reading critically might be great for a college paper, it’s certainly no way to relax.
The other problem we’ve developed with reading is that if something doesn’t appeal to us, we don’t have the patience to stick with it anymore. And if something is good, we sweat and bite our fingernails and think of how we’ll never write anything as good as this, and subsequently sit in our apartments and worry about the fact that we’re not writing.
In fact, the only fiction we’ve read in the last few years is stuff we’ve already read and loved—perhaps because we’re able to recall the pure pleasure we read them with the first time. Outside of that, the only literature we seem to be able to read now is non-fiction and, lately, poetry (which in a certain sense is actually really cool; we’ve never really read poetry before. Have you? We’ve read Paradise Lost like five times now and holy shit is it amazing).
But it’s been difficult to lose the simple joy of reading fiction for fun. And while we have found other outlets (Wyatt works out way more than he needs to; Walt binge-watches TV at an alarming rate), it’s still tough to know that for us, at least right now, fiction has lost some of its allure.
What say you? Other writers—do you have this same problem, and how do you cope? Sane people—what do you do to relax?
As always, we thank you for taking the time to read this post. Now, if you’ll excuse us, we have some fingernails to bite, and some worrying about not writing to do.
W & W Sawday