Author (and sometimes New York Times Opinionator blogger) Bill Hayes convincingly opined recently in the New York Times: “Not writing can be good for one’s writing; indeed, it can make one a better writer.” I can tell you today that this is total bullshit but back in August when I first saw the words I was completely seduced by the idea. I had not written much of anything for several months, but I was still clinging to my “food blogger” identity in all other aspects and starting to feel a bit guilty about it. Then along came Mr. Hayes, author, assuring me that my literary procrastination was, in fact, making me a better writer.
Hayes likens the discipline of writing to that of fitness training and suggests both activities require vital periods of resting if one is expected to achieve “significant gains.” Your well-pumped bicep needs a day or two of rest between workouts to rebuild after a heavy circuit at the gym, so it stands to reason your well-worked writer’s brain needs a similar rest after strenuous periods of sentence composition.
Uh huh. Seems a bit silly now but back in August when I first read it I thought it made perfect sense. Score!
I’m sure I don’t have to convince any writer out there who has ever suffered a similar dissonance that rationalizations are like heroin to addicts. When it comes to the mental gymnastics required to sustain our sense of self-identity as writers who do not write we suddenly become Mary Lou Rettons when the right rationalization (excuse) comes along. Mr. Hayes was mine. Even though I could not think of any other activity where one gets better through abstention, he was making perfect sense!
I needed to take more time off.
Needless to say, it is now January of a new year and I haven’t yet won a Pulitzer and I can safely say this period of rest certainly hasn’t made writing any easier for me. To wit: this post. I fear sadly that if all one can muster writing about is not writing after taking several months off then what more proof do you need that sabbaticals can only make subsequent efforts significantly more awkward.
Perhaps I would have been less susceptible to Hayes’ bullshit had I paid more attention to his admission that he too was battling prolonged periods of non-writing. Had I paid attention to that small but significant detail I would have seen his theory as nothing more than the reconciliation of a growing cognitive dissonance of a writer becoming someone who doesn’t write?
So as I waking up from my long blogging siesta and open my eyes to a new (metaphorical) morning and I elect to start this new dawn with a Siesta Cocktail. Not only is the siesta cocktail one kick-in-the-pants drink, it also provides one-third the daily requirement of vitamin C! (Food bloggers need their vitamins and minerals if they want to grow up to become Procopios, Ruhlmans and Leites.
I only recently become aware of the Siesta Cocktail despite the fact that this tequila-based drink was first created in 2006 by Katie Stipe using the Hemingway Daiquiri as her starting point. The tequila, Campari, and grapefruit combination was intriguing when I first read it. One sip and I knew it was destined to be classic. Bravo Katie! Only a real genius can unearth classics that had not yet been invented.