Some Days, You Just Need a Time-Out

Sunset photo shoes house and evergreens in silhouette under a sky awash in blue, gray and peach-colored clouds. 
The photo is here to show what I would have missed if I didn't look up from my screen.

“Don’t call me in the morning,” I tell everyone I know. I say no to breakfasts with friends, morning appointments, and a.m. meetings because that’s my WRITING TIME. Even the dog knows it. After breakfast, she spreads herself across the doorway so I can’t leave the office without climbing over her.

The world still leaks in. Notices pop up on my screen: X liked your post on ABC. Breaking news: crash on Highway 101. Friend request from handsome man who is a figment of Facebook’s imagination.

The phone rings: A stranger mumbles about helping me make my book famous, or a bot offers to help me with Medicare. I generally don’t pick up unless I recognize the name on Caller ID, but it breaks my concentration. Some days I take the landline off the hook and silence the cell phone, but what if a friend or relative needs me? What if someone is inviting me out to lunch?

What if it’s just Verizon telling me it’s time to pay my bill?

Sometimes I hope for a power failure.

At noon, the dog comes in, brushing my arm, anxious for attention, food, and a walk. I’m still not dressed, and there’s a zoom meeting coming up with my big old face exposed. Okay, I surrender.

It’s hard to hold the world back. When I take a bathroom break, the toothpaste gunk in the sink grosses me out. When I heat water for tea, I see the stove needs scrubbing. When I take my notebook to write by the fireplace, I see dust and dog fur everywhere.

When I don’t know what I’m going to eat for dinner, I haven’t practiced this weekend’s church choir music, and my bones ache from sitting too much, it’s time for a catch-up day. The brain needs a break, and life demands I stop and take care of things. Wednesday was one of those days. I turned up the stereo, cleaned my bathrooms and my kitchen, baked bread, practiced music, updated the spa chemicals, and put away the mail, books, and assorted coats left on and around the kitchen table. I swept the floors, trimmed my nails, walked the dog, played online Mahjong, and generally caught up with the non-writing part of my life. It felt great.

You’ve got to look up sometimes. Tuesday night, while listening to the Head for the Hills online poetry reading (Francesca Bell and Todd Davis, both fabulous), I glanced out my office window and saw a glorious sunset unfolding. I raced out to take pictures. Five minutes later, it was over.

A writer needs to gather material and let it percolate so she has something to write about. Some days, I do everything but writing, and that’s okay. I’m a happier writer for having taken a break.

There’s still dust on the piano, but my bathrooms and kitchen are clean, my refrigerator full, my bills paid, and my music ready to play this weekend. I can feel the firm calluses on my left-hand fingertips from practicing lots of guitar music.

I am writing this morning. Tomorrow, April 1, National Poetry Month begins. I have signed up for not just one but two poem-a-day workshops and also pledged with National Novel Writing Month that I would turn out 20,000 words on the third novel in my Beaver Creek series. Plus the usual social media posts and blogs and pre-publication work for the memoir coming out next year. Oh, and doing my presidential duties for Oregon Poetry Association, where we are hosting open mics every Monday night this month.

I’m writing. I have blocked Facebook notifications. If the phone rings, I will startle and check Caller ID, but I will not answer it. I will sip Earl Grey from my Jack Daniel’s mug and commit words to the page because that’s what I do in the mornings.

How about you? Do you need to trash the schedule and just catch up sometimes, whether it’s doing chores or settling in for a day of naps, novels and Netflix? How do you arrange it?


Rebecca Smolen and John Miller poetry month daily prompts and writing sessions

Sage Cohen’s Write a Poem a Day

National Novel Writing Month’s “Camp Nanowrimo”

Oregon Poetry Association open mics (on Zoom, non-Oregonians welcome) Register at to receive the Zoom link.

Success! You're on the list.
%d bloggers like this: