I’m possibly the worst person conceivable to talk about pacing. No, no, not in my writing – although that is a matter of personal taste and mood. Sometimes I’m in the mood for a slowly unfurling work of great linguistic beauty and deeply evolved characters. Other times I want it full of action or I can’t stay focused on it. When I’m writing, I tend toward slower, for some reason, and often ask my beta or alpha readers if they see pacing problems. Keep the reader engaged, don’t put them to sleep! But the sort of pacing I’m talking about is the rhythm of life.
I have a tendency to go at things full-speed ahead, damn the torpedoes of sleeping and eating! and then wonder why I wind up sick once the project is wrapped and I can relax. Or, worse, I can’t relax and as soon as one thing is finished (or close enough, a problem I’ll come back to) I’m off to the next thing and people complain that I’m in perpetual motion and they can’t keep up. Which sounds like a compliment, but…
I have to pace myself. Especially as I’m not 20 anymore, and I’m losing some of the physical resilience that would allow me to work all day, drop into sleep, get up at daybreak and do it again. This last weekend working down at Mom’s, I had to sit and take a break every so often, and got to a point where I knew if I pushed any more, I’d not be safe to drive home. This week, trying to cram a week’s worth of work into three days so I could take a guilt-free vacation… didn’t quite work. I did make the sensible choice one evening when something failed, of not restarting it immediately and working far more than a 12 hr shift. That’s not wise, not only for the toll on my mental and physical health, but in my line of work mistakes are bad, and fatigue makes mistakes. So I dropped it and went home, then went on to the next thing once I’d slept, eaten, and recovered.
And in the middle of all this, trying to think about packing for LibertyCon… yep, leaving Thursday and as of Wednesday, no packing has been done. Ah, well, life should be exciting, yes? I picked up a last-minute cover art job. Normally I’d say no, but the publisher is a good client, in a bind, and, um, I have a problem with pacing.
There have been times I’ve wondered if I were an adrenaline junkie. Do I crave this rush of urgency to get it done, get it all done, and do it NOW! It does give you a certain jolt to the brain. But I don’t think that’s what it is. I think it’s that drive to do everything, because I have to. Because I’m the responsible one, and if I don’t, who will? I’ve had this since the kids came into my life, and as I told my sister recently, I’ve been praying for patience ever since. There’s your problem, she pointed out, if you ask for patience, He sends you trials that will give it to you!
So it’s time, again, for me to tap the brakes, to see if I can slow down and take the time to relax. It’s something I have to do every so often. Sometimes I become conscious of it myself, sometimes my husband says that I need to evaluate my project-level and take a few things off my plate. I usually protest that – I can’t! I wail – but then I take a breath and realize he’s right. I have to or I get sick, and that wastes time and I’m miserable not only for being ill, but guilt over stuff undone.
Pacing. You can’t live life at a sprint. I can’t stop, really, but there are times I can slow to a meander, camera in hand, and look for the flowers and bugs and not think about the jobs or the kids or… anything much.