The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Thank God for "Down Time"!

The value of “Down Time”

Since finishing “Great Sky Woman,” my anthropological coming-of-age story (set 30,000 years ago in East Africa), I’ve found it a little difficult to work.  Or at least, that’s what a little voice in my head keeps chattering at me.

Truth be told, I work every day.  Every day.  Whether it is on a first draft, polishing a later draft, editing a manuscript, researching a new project, or teaching a class, every day of my life I am engaging with the Work.

And you know what?  I have to be careful not to let that become a compulsion.  The truth is that you can’t sprint all the way to Disneyland, but you can walk there.  In other words, it’s important not to allow impatient ambition drive you to distraction.  Just lay out a plan for the next year of your work, including both intense writing time, and “down time” when you are laying fallow. The word “recreation” is actually “re-creation.” To create ourselves anew.

This makes perfect sense if you exercise.  Your muscles don’t grow while you work them.  They grow during the rest BETWEEN workouts.  Similarly, our minds do their very best “cooking” during our down time.  You’re playing with your kids, driving down the freeway, or singing in the shower when BANG!  Here comes an idea!

So it’s cool.  I’m going to lay back, enjoy myself, tinker with a new screenplay, and let my subconscious recover from three brutal years of work on this book. Hey!  I deserve it.

Don’t you?

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