Early last week I wrote an email I didn’t want to write—I’m taking a break from my writing group. The decision was tough, but I think it’s the right one. These are the reasons why.

1. Over the past few months, my non-writing responsibilities have multiplied. I’m currently the president of the Graduate Student Association at Rice and therefore involved in any number of meetings, events, and, especially this semester, Rice’s Centennial celebration (more about that later). There simply aren’t enough hours in the day, and something had to go.

2. I was spending more time critiquing than writing. When I first joined the group, the energy from the other writers inspired me to create new stories and begin my third novel-length project. As we continued to meet, however, I found that my creative writing energy was being channeled in unexpected ways. My group meets every other Thursday. My schedule that day: read one or two selections, make extensive comments, meet at 1 pm, talk until 3 or 4, and come home exhausted. Even more so if my work was critiqued—I couldn’t bounce back quickly enough.

3. My work-life balance is out of whack—and I’m trying to fix it. I’m the type of person who needs 8 hours of sleep per night to function normally during the day. If I am too busy or too stressed, I have terrible insomnia. This became a debilitating problem during the prospectus months, and I want to learn from my mistakes.

4. I want to finish my novel AND my dissertation. I turned in my second chapter draft this week, and I have another by the end of the semester. As my adviser put it, I need to build writing traction. That means writing, writing, writing. All the time. I’m getting up at 6 AM to work, but some days it’s simply not enough (see #3). I can do both, but not if I’m spreading myself too thin.

So, yeah. Already, I feel more relaxed knowing that I’ve opened up two days a month. I hope to rejoin them when my schedule is less crazy, but for the time being, I’m flying solo.

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