For me, the hardest thing about writing is NOT writing. You know, the necessary breaks we take between drafts, or chapters, or difficult revisions.
And they are necessary. We'd go insane if we didn't take them, and get overwhelmed with our own stories. Space is necessary.
But, at the same time, breaks drive me insane, because I feel like I'm not DOING anything productive. Even when I am. I read, I critique, I work on my query and/or my synopsis, I compile my list of agents I want to query, I map out my next steps for the novel, and other things.
None of that stuff compares to actually writing--none of it gives me the same feeling of working proactively towards my dream.
Here's my goal: think of not writing as sleeping during finals week.
Everyone remembers the urge to cram all night during finals in college, right? (Or maybe not, if you were super smart or super didn't care.) It seemed like those extra 6-8 hours of studying would do you more good than actually getting sleep.
Not so! I've never pulled an all-nighter, because I realized the importance of sleep early on. The couple nights I stayed up several hours later than I ought to have, the next day I was a zombie. Zombies don't take tests very well. Zombies also don't retain information very well at 4 AM.
So I began to consider getting a good night's sleep as part of studying. I started my studying early--days before the final. And on the night before the final, I began my review early, and then I went to bed NO LATER than a certain time. Because sleep is necessary. Even when it feels like that time could be better spent doing something else--the sleep lets us all wake up on the morning of the final feeling physically ready to take the test. And if the prep-work is done, then we are also mentally ready.
Finishing a complete first draft? That's studying early. Get some sleep.
Working really really hard to get a difficult revision just right and finally finally getting through that last page? Also studying early. Get some sleep.
Killing yourself to fix something that just doesn't work, and you keep making it worse instead of improving it? You're trying to pull an all-nighter. Sleep, and see how it looks in the morning.
So now I just have to convince myself that not writing is as necessary as sleep during finals week.
I wonder if this will change if/when I ever have deadlines... ;)