Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Lost Art of Piddling

No, not that kind of piddling. The other kind.

I used to be a really talented piddler. Given a few hours of free time, I could watch TV. Devour a book front to back. Listen to music while studying the lyrics (whether or not I sang along would depend on whether anyone could hear me--I wouldn't subject that warbling to my worst enemy). I played with my dogs, who seem to enjoy my warbling, especially when I warble in some Alabama-Louisiana version of French. I worked on quilts.

I piddled.

This week, I realized something, and I'm not sure whether it's good or bad. I've lost the ability to piddle. And it kind of ticks me off.

The pace of the last year has been brutal. I had three full-length novels to write to contract in 2012, plus several to shepherd through edits and revisions and proofs, and four books released. From February 15-April 29 of this year, I cranked out a 90,000-word novel that comes out in June, and had another release in February. My full-time day job went nuts at the same time, going from a laid-back easy affair in November to a nail-biting, harrowing crazy space.

"Once I get back from RT," I thought, "I'll relax. The deadlines will be past me for the most part. I'll have fun. I'll piddle."

That lasted, oh, about twenty-four hours. Part of my problem is that, thanks to my no-longer-secret penchant for reality TV, I have the attention span of a gnat. And, also, I guess I got used to the breakneck pace of working eighteen-hour days.

Now, I'm driving my agent nuts with ideas. I'm tinkering with six proposals (which is piddling, in a way, since I can't possible devote much time to them all at once). I have this horrible need to dive into something huge and crazy, but I can't figure out what it is.

What do you do between projects? Do you find it difficult to stop and take a breath? If I rediscover the art of piddling, will I lose the desire to work until I drop like the only plough mule on a forty-acre farm? Will I begin to use bad Southern similes whenever I try to write if I do, indeed, sit down and watch nine episodes of "Swamp People" back to back? (Because that's how many are on my DVR at the moment--how Troy and RJ have made it through an entire gator season without me is hard to imagine.)

Or do I need therapy? How do you relax after a big deadline and recharge so you can do it all again?

Restless, bored, non-piddling minds want to know!

18 comments:

Roger said...

Where I came from my Grandparents called it putzing. Putzing: Often used as "putzing around". Means to fool around, tinker, mess with, dabble. Could also be spelled puttsing. The same as putzin. I'm good at it. Currently I do Zentangle as a form of putzin. Very relaxing.

Alicia Hunter Pace (aka Jean Hovey and Stephanie Jones) said...

It's hard. After a deadline, I miss my characters and want to launch into the next project. However, piddling is necessary. It's how we refill the well. It's just hard to do sometimes.

Lexi said...

I took a LONG break after finishing book 3. Didn't write seriously for MONTHS, the first time in ten years. Now I'm back in the saddle and paying for it. On a deadline and freaking out that I won't make it!

Jillian said...

I take a break and reward myself with reading and movies. I still try to write at least a few words a day to keep in a groove though.

Suzanne Johnson said...

@Roger....I've heard "putzing" too--and your Zentangle is a great form of putzing. I've been tempted to try it myself!

@Alicia. Thanks. Yes, I know I NEED to piddle, but it's making me crazy :-)

@Lexi...You'll make it and if you need more time, the world won't end, right? It's hard to get back in the groove after time away.

@Jillian...Good idea to keep writing. I've had a lot of guest blogs and such to do, but that's kind of mindless writing. I do have an idea percolating to the top of the pile, though....

SandyG265 said...

I'd get a friend to drag you off someplace to relax and have some fun

Cari Hislop said...

I'm in the middle of a long piddle. When I finished my last book (I think it was February) I just sort of keeled over. Middle of March I was diagnosed with an over active thyroid. That makes your brain run slooow (and is lethal if untreated - that cheered me up - I finally had a concrete illness to whine about). The specialist started me on some pills two weeks ago and I'm feeling on my way back to normal (though it will take a while). During my piddle I've read LOTS of books in various genres, watched a lot of reality tv and puttered in my garden. If I lived near a library I'd be tempted volunteer to shelve books (realistically they might let me vacuum/mop the floor - though you'd probably find me in a corner reading a book!).

Suzanne Johnson said...

@Sandy...That's a good idea. I so want to go back to Cedar Key, Fla.....need to work on that!

@Cari...Yikes! You had a reason to piddle! But reading actually isn't piddling, right? It's research. You're researching the market. Yeah, that's it :-) Hope you're feeling better!

Liz S. said...

Piddling is hard for workaholics. My relaxation is through reading. No matter how tired I am, I try to read some portion of a book. It is the only thing that helps me keep my sanity! So if you have lost your art of piddling, you need to force yourself to relearn it, otherwise burn out is ugly!

miki said...

You need it but unfortunately i can't help... i'm putting too much pressure on myself at the moment as soon as something is finished someone drop something else on my shoulder so my own project are reduced to neant and i don't relax at all... i need it though i need real holiday something completely different for a time but i can't... i always see something that needs to be done or where i must help ... i do crafting ( bookmarks or keychain or earring) but at teh moment i don't manage to get the necessary time and it not relaxing anymore

Aidee Ladnier said...

Oh how I miss quilting....I can definitely empathize.

--Angelia

Suzanne Johnson said...

@Liz...It was only recently that I realized I'd become a workaholic, or a deadline junkie, or something like that. I'm trying to force myself to go slowly into the next project by picking an occupation I have to research...marine salvage!

@Aw, Miki...Sounds like you need some time to relax, too. It seems as if everything falls on you at once sometimes, doesn't it? Hang in there!

@Angelia....I do miss quilting! I loved doing paper-piecing, where hundreds or thousands of tiny pieces all fit together to form intricate pictures or patterns. Sigh. Very time-consuming, though!

Eva Millien said...

Piddling or lollygagging around is a very necessary part of life. It is a great stress reliever and helps blank your mind, so when you go back to the other important stuff, it's a lot easier to get back in the grove.

M.V.Freeman said...

OH my--well.

I tend to watch movies. Lots of them. And I read anything I get my hands on.

And I think about washing the floor. Note I said think.

My piddling is still alive and well unfortunately...

And reading about your schedule still makes me break out in hives...

Suzanne Johnson said...

@Eva--I agree. And I did pretty well tonight. I went to my local "writing circle," but we do more circling than writing so it was relaxing, at least :-)

@MV...I swear, I don't have enough attention span left to watch a movie. Last week I wandered off about halfway through "Warhorse," which is the closest I've gotten to actually watching an entire movie in about three or four years. Sad....

Louisa Cornell said...

The hardest thing for me to do is to give myself permission to piddle! And I do think a little piddling is good for the soul. With requests for three different novels in the past few months - revising, editing, submitting at various speeds on each I don't feel I can justify piddling. A few weeks ago I got really stressed about it all so I gave myself a Sunday to piddle. I watched the entire first season of Ripper Street - an AWESOME Victorian London set series starring Matthew MacFadyen! I cannot WAIT for season two! And I read some of the books on the TBR stack from hell. I bathed dogs. (relaxes me. Them? Not so much.) I am afraid at this point I have to schedule my piddling!

bn100 said...

watch movies

Cari Hislop said...

To Suzanne...it's been interesting to read all sorts of genres (nothing more mentally taxing than a picture book on vampires). It's reminded me that I love certain types of stories. The other day I finished watching the second half of Catherine Cookson's The Dwelling Place on tv (for the umpteenth time) and had to order the book. Why do some stories haunt us more than others? I've no idea. I hope it comes soon.

To Louisa: I so hope you sell all three books! How exciting. Your posts have been making me laugh for several years now. I can't wait to read one of your Regencies!!! :)