Thursday, July 14, 2011

Stop Writing and Take a Break!

Popular opinion has it that a writer should write every single day, snow or rain, heat or gloom of night. But we don’t belong to the U.S. Postal Service (which, by the way, does not claim this or any other official motto), so why do we adhere to such a stringent credo?

Certainly, there is a benefit to practicing your craft. How else would we get better? And for an aspiring writer, like me, perseverance is important to completing and submitting manuscripts on a regular basis.

But every day? That’s sounds like a job.

For the most part, I believe in treating my writing like a “real” job. I invest a lot of time in it and I do some part of it every day – either research, submissions, querying, networking, or, yes, writing. At least, I try to. When I don’t do anything writing-related for a day, I feel bad about myself, as if I was playing hooky from school.

Yet, I have to remember this: every job, no matter how demanding, grants time off. Annual leave, vacation, weekends, holidays. These are requirements of work too.

So why don’t we treat our writing like a job with a break now and then. Yes, I enjoy writing. I love writing and I love the feeling that comes with having spent a good chunk of time in front of a computer, creating pages and pages of fiction.

But…but…but, we need breaks, even from a part of our lives that we love. I’m not advocating a two day stretch every week or even every month. I still believe I need to keep my nose to the grindstone if I want to keep finishing one or more manuscripts every year.

I am suggesting at least an annual stretch of non-writing time. No touching the computer for a week, let’s say. It’s hard. You may be anxious to get back to writing during this time, even after just a day. Resist.

If you must, jot down ideas as they come to you during your break but limit this activity to a few minutes a day.

That strong itch to get back to your writing will stand you in good stead when your break is over and you will see your work with renewed energy and insight.

Photo courtesy of zirconicusso at

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