Cara Langston

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Learning to take a break without guilt

For the past 5 years, I’ve been writing. Not every day and sometimes not even every week, but since then I’ve always had imaginary characters and a plot line stewing in my brain. I’d go through periods of writers’ block, but they’d only last a few weeks before I forced myself to get back into the groove. And it worked. During that time I rewrote, edited, and published Battle Hymns, and building on that momentum, I outlined and drafted my second novel. Then life threw me a curve ball. Although it was technically a planned curve ball, I didn’t know how much it would impact everything in my life.

We’re having a baby, due in May. Yes, we’re thrilled. Yes, we’ve started on the nursery. Yes, we know the sex (it’s a boy). No, we haven’t picked out a name and even if we did, we’re not telling you because someone is bound to have had a bad experience with someone with the same name and we don’t want to hear it.

I had such high standards going into pregnancy. There was no reason to change my routine yet. For example: I’d continue to eat well and go to the gym because being pregnant isn’t an excuse to sit on the couch and eat carbs all the time. Ha! The next month, I spent every day after work laying on the couch, watching Netflix, and eating crackers and granola bars because carbs were the only thing that would ease my nausea. I didn’t have the energy to do anything else. I certainly wasn’t writing. I counted down the days until the second trimester would arrive because surely then I could get back into my routine . . .

I’m now in the second half of my second trimester and I feel much better. But how do I spend my free time? Researching daycare and pediatricians. Reading parenting books. Shopping for and decorating the nursery. Reorganizing every pantry and closet in the house. Sitting on the couch and watching Netflix because my back hurts all the time. I spent one afternoon last month editing a chapter of my novel and I thought, “Yes! I’m getting back into it!” The next day I returned my focus to baby-related tasks and haven’t opened my manuscript since.

I suppose I’m writing this post in an attempt to shake off the gnawing guilt that I need to be working on my novel. I’ve read too many posts about how “successful” writers wake up a 4 A.M. to write before going to work, how they don’t go a day without writing, and how they balance all of that with a day job and a family. They’ve stuck with me and make me feel lazy for choosing Pinterest and 202 episodes of “The X-Files” over a novel that I love and want to see traditionally published.

Then again, why not take a break right now?

  1. I’m still in my 20s. There should be plenty of time in the future to achieve my lofty dreams of literary success.
  2. I don’t have an agent or a publishing deal. No one but my mother is asking when the next book will be finished.
  3. I assume newborns, postpartum recovery, and writing also don’t mesh well together, so a break was inevitable. I might as well extend it by nine months.

I’m sure there’s at least one pregnant writer out there who’s plowing through her novel, staying active, eating her vegetables, and dominating her day job all at the same time. But that’s not me. I should learn to accept that.