Having handed my novel to the final proofreader a week ago, I told myself that I'd take severals days off from writing to allow my creative brain to rest, catch up on some reading, watch a few TV shows, maybe watch a movie or two. The next day I started fine-tuning a screenplay that I had written for one of my MFA classes.
On a typical workday, in true Los Angeles form, I wake up at 5:10am. I start the commute at 6am, start working at 7am. I leave work around 3:30pm and get back home around 5pm. If I choose to exercise, I take an hour to do that, shower, cook dinner, and then I have about an hour a night to write before I'm checked out. It's such a valuable, small piece of time, that I feel guilty if I don't use it towards what I love to do most. On my days off I usually write for a few hours, but don't go overboard with it.
I'll be releasing my novel soon, and am excited to do so, not only to get it out to the world, but so I can move on to writing other projects (including novel #2). A short-term goal of mine is to adjust my work situation so that I can get rid of my commute and add a couple more hours to my day. I think if that happens, I'll feel a bit less guilty about taking off a day during the week to do stuff that's not writing-related. I think finally releasing the novel will help with that too.
I'm sure for most fiction writers, characters dance around one's mind throughout most of the day (as is necessary to work out who they are and what their conflict is). At some point you need to write stuff down that you've been working on for fear of forgetting it. When you have a non-writing related day job, getting something down on paper every day after work becomes all the more important. It's almost painful not to write.
Of course the dream of dreams is to one day make a living solely of one's writing. At that point the guilt of not writing every day has to weaken because the precious hours of being able to write have become more available. For all of the wonderful things that Los Angeles offers writers (could there be any place on Earth that give writers more to pull from?), the daily time lost to the inherent commute is definitely a downside. It significantly takes away from what you enjoy the most.
I know some writers worry about making a daily word count. 500 words, 1,000, 3,000. None of that bothers me. If I rewrite even a small scene for the better, I've felt like I've accomplished something. My daily goal is done.
Stephen King, who writes every single day, including holidays, famously said: "Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid or making friends. Writing is magic, as much as the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink."
I think King summed it up pretty good. As we writers near completion of a project, we fantasize about how great it will be to take off a bit of time after that project is finished. Then we try to take a break, but it rarely works. For some reason, we continue to create, because we must.
J.D. Salinger spent much of his life in a small shed on his New Hampshire property, pounding away on a keyboard, creating novels that he knew would never be published in his lifetime. That is what fulfilled his life. At times, I can understand why.