by | Sep 3, 2012 | Writing and Reading | 2 comments |

Completing a months-long project, meeting a difficult goal, walking out of a final exam, filing a major brief, an institution-wide evaluation or a huge end-of-the-year report, and you feel elated, yahoo, relieved, whew, right? Not me, unless you include tired, keyed-up and restless. Closure’s double-edged sword strikes almost immediately.

Last week in the DC area, I finally pried my manuscript out of my arms, shipped a hard copy of the draft via UPS to my editor and walked out of Staples smiling. Driving along route 29 south’s rolling hills and gentle curves from Warrenton towards Charlottesville, my body suddenly developed strange creaks and groans, no doubt from sitting too long and writing all day into the wee hours. Resistant to wriggling and butt-shifts, the aches persisted then led my mind down to the valley of sadness and death. Apparently, it did not matter that the book is far from publishable and I will be working on it again soon, a fact that excites me at this point. Writing is a perverse mistress.

Every “how-do” writing instructor recommends an emotional break from a “completed” project, but not from writing. While your manuscript undergoes the editorial process, put it aside, they say, and start the next project. Resist the temptation to look at the manuscript and change even a single word. Jump onto a different horse and ride. And so I am, reading books and back-issues of the New Yorker, writing this week’s blog post and thinking about that radio essay again, doing research about women in the United States during the 19th century with a mind towards historical fiction. And yet that edgy feeling persists. What to do, what to do?

While busily moping through dirty dishes, laundry and chores this cloudy, foggy, rain spitting day, I heard my mother’s voice from long ago. “Get out, go outside! Out, out, out of the house!” Grudgingly, we bored and whiney children would go, shortly finding something to do, a game to play, a place to explore, a creature to befriend. Much later, when called back inside, my sisters and I would obey again reluctantly, but this time because we left behind fantasy and fun. Time is a perverse mistress.

What to do with these two contrary mistresses? Get out, go outside, out, out, out of the house this gloomy Labor Day. Let my imagination take flight. Then come back inside and write.

How do you spend restless time?


  1. Joyce Duff


    Can;t get passed being a mother. I like yur writing. Very good.

    Love, MOther

    • Carole Duff

      Thank you, Mother, perverse child that I am sometimes, and like you, a mother. Good luck with your eye surgery! Love you much, Carole


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