Brain Break (part three)

Family and Friend Time

What a week I’ve had. I have a Nascar worthy commute through snow, fog, ice, and when it is sunny I’m eastbound in the AM and west bound in the PM. I share an office using a borrowed laptop and sit at a folding table. I come home to our lady of perpetual conversation oh my COWS the last thing I need is socializing with la familia or my buddies. Don’t they understand? If they are friends or family they’d get me and give me the space I need to create….YEAH, RIGHT.

Actually, time spent with family and friends can definitely give your inner author a much-needed break, as long as you adhere to a few parameters. Yes, I’m going to share with you a few parameters.

“Fish are friends, not food.” (obscure movie quote: check)

Your family and friends are not fodder for your novel. Do not multitask by spending “quality” time with friends and family only to catalog the way your younger child slurps his pasta or commit to memory the irritation factor found in that noise gramma makes reminiscent of a biddy hen while she’s trying to add to the conversation that doesn’t concern her. Stop doing that. Unless you’re writing your memoir, and even then, use discretion – family is family and some things don’t belong in the public record. Yes, we write what we know, but people watching in the mall or the bus stop or anywhere else is safer than putting Uncle Otto in your novel.

Okay, maybe one or two quirks or tics could be irresistible, but family time should be sanctuary – not research. If you must, and I’ve musted myself, use an amalgamation rather than a verbatim representation of Uncle Otto. Refrain however from giving Aunt Grunhilde cause to strike you from her will due to your slanderous and insensitive treatment of her dear husband who helped raise yer fadder from an eck. It’s not cute to verbally maul your relations – in fact, it’s inappropriate and identifies you as a noob. Quality time is that time wherein you fully engage in your familial role as parent/child etc. Play with your grand baby. Discuss the relevancy of Pokemon Go with your son. Chat over coffee with your spouse. Just enjoy their presence. Same goes for your friends. Make a conscious effort if you need to, to spend time just listening to your friends without discussing the complexities of your novel or the frustration you feel over your editor scrapping your prologue. You are a writer, but you’re other things too. Don’t worry. Your brain will appreciate the break from writer mode.

Avoid toxic types. So I’m an introvert, and I’d love to ditch the above advice and sequester myself in the basement with the cats and write full throttle. Unfortunately, eventually my creative well would dry and I’d churn out garbage because I’m not a self-contained entity. Humans need other humans. Of course, if you are being intentional about your connections as I am – toxic types raise hell with your creativity. If you can’t banish them from your life altogether – take them in the smallest dose possible so that they don’t permeate your creativity like the little biddy hens they are. (see?)

It may be that you have a day job stuffed to the gills with toxic types. Perhaps you know in your heart of hearts certain relatives were in fact the original inspirations for Mommy Dearest and Faye Dunaway deserves canonization in comparison. Of course your brain will seize if you spend time with these types. We can’t choose family and we have little control over coworkers, but time spent with friends is both relaxing and refreshing to the creative mind. Just be sure that you are socializing to be social and not to do writer things like develop a fan base. Fans are not friends. Getting your ego fed is not the same as nurturing your inner muse. Fans are great and networking is necessary – but so is coffee with a friend and chatting about nothing, or going to the mall together or whatever it is you enjoy that you aren’t going to come back to your bat cave and build into your next protagonist.

If you’re a social butterfly you may need to flit from flower to flower, but if you’re like most writers I know personally, the well-planned social sojourn requires only one or two close friends and or family who aren’t altogether crazier than you to give you the brain break you need. So put down your tablet, comb your hair, and get out there and enjoy the simple time spent with others of your species. Your creative brain will thank you.


TL Boehm
Associate Editor