By Sarah Sundin
Once again my life paralleled the lives of my characters. While writing my latest release, When Tides Turn, I’d promised to not become overwhelmed by work, but I had. Only one thing to do—power through. Or so I thought. Instead, other lessons popped through.
Stay the Course
“Stay the course” is the motto of the novel’s hero, Lt. Dan Avery, and it embodies the determined focus so valuable in a writing career.
Even more than talent, persistence seems to be the defining trait of the successful writer. To weather this crazy, heartbreaking profession requires the unswerving knowledge that we simply must write and that we mustn’t let anything stop us.
Persistence carries us through rejection, discouragement, opposition, and doubt. Persistence glues us to our manuscripts despite the siren calls of the internet, TV, and other distractions. Persistence drives us to work hard and meet our deadlines, even when we’re bone-tired.
In When Tides Turn, the heroine, Ens. Tess Beaumont, touts the importance of rest, play, and socializing–activities vital to the creative soul.
Writers need to rest, to replenish our depleted stores. Our bodies were created to need rest, and we suffer when we ignore this. An exhausted writer loses creativity and focus, and over time our health will be affected.
We also need time for fun, recreation, and exercise. Getting our bodies moving is not only good for our health, but it increases blood flow to the brain. And when we take our minds off our stories, that old subconscious gets to play. The best ideas often come when we’re not forcing ourselves to think.
And even we introverted writers benefit from time with family and friends. We need the support and encouragement. We need to step out of our lovely story worlds and enter the real world. And to create great characters, we need to be immersed among real people with their strengths and weaknesses, trials and joys, quirks and foibles.
All of us have natural tendencies to be more like workaholic Dan or more like fun-loving Tess. There’s a reason God commanded us, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work” (Exodus 20:9-10). The fourth commandment reminds fun-lovers to work hard, and it reminds workaholics to rest.
It’s important to know our tendencies and how to deal with them. If you have difficulty getting work done, track your hours to see where you’re wasting time and can become more productive. If you struggle with overwork, schedule regular rest and recreation–and keep those commitments as doggedly as you keep your work commitments.
To maintain balance, make sure goals and deadlines are realistic. Allow room in that schedule for “life,” for the unexpected events that can blindside you–both happy events and tragic.
While writing this novel, I had to follow the advice my authorial self gave my hero–to force myself to rest. Taking a day off with a deadline looming required more discipline than powering on through. Ironically, those forced days of rest increased my productivity by allowing my body and brain and creativity to recharge.
How about you? Do you tend to “overwork” or “under-work”? How can you achieve better balance?
Sarah Sundin is the author of nine historical novels, including When Tides Turn. Her novel Through Waters Deep was a finalist for the 2016 Carol Award and won the INSPY Award. A mother of three, Sarah lives in California. Please visit her at www.sarahsundin.com.