Thursday, June 30, 2011

Writing 101: Take A Break


Taking a break is a writing technique that is often overlooked and not even considered a writing technique at all (probably because it doesn't involve any writing). How exactly can taking a break from writing help your writing?


Luckily, you don’t have to wait for her to wake up to get an answer. After all, she’s just a picture.


Back in February of this year, an unexpected life situation forced to move into my sister's basement temporarily. During that month, I took a break from a lot of things. One of those things I paused was writing. For that entire month, I didn't write anything. I swapped manuscripts with my lovely beta reader, and we critiqued each other’s work. But when I got my critique back I sat it aside and didn't immediately address its concerns.

At the end of that month I moved back home and began writing again. Suddenly, I felt refreshed, reinvented. More surprisingly, instead of feeling rusty and needing to gain back any momentum, my writing came across stronger than ever. I was able to approach my newly critiqued manuscript with a clear head and now have a better novel to show for it. Such a long hiatus may not work for every writer though. This is natural for me.

My writing tends to follow a cycle. First I go through periods of writing binges where I write every single day. I become this non-stop prose spewing beast banging on the keys for hours a day, seven days a week.

Then, after those long writing binges, I go through another phase where I don’t write anything at all for long stretches of time. It can last for weeks, but I’m never bothered by this lull because it’s always been like a recharge for my proverbial batteries. The cycle just begins again.

We writers tend to live in our heads and its necessary for us to step outside and enjoy the sunshine more than every once in a while. Shaking up your routine can sometimes, inadvertently, lead to you generating some of your best material. How many times has inspiration struck you while taking a shower? Sometimes you do your best writing when you're not even writing.

So go and take that break for a few minutes and allow your subconscious to work out your story problems. To prevent burnout, go on hiatus for a day, or a week, or a month. Do something else. Shut the computer down. Have some chocolate. Spend time with your family. Enjoy life outside of your head. You deserve it. And your story needs it.

Do you take breaks from writing? What affect does it have on your writing?

20 comments:

Michelle Julian said...

Whenever I take a couple of days off, I find I write so much more than if I was writing everyday. Plus, I'm always thinking about my story even when my butt isn't in the chair.

Emily Rittel-King said...

Yes! When I've worked myself to exhaustion, I have to take a break. Like you, it may last weeks, but I'm not worried. I'm just powering up for the next time I get the itch to escape into a good story. It's feast or famine, but that's what works for me.

Holly Dodson said...

Just having been on vacation where I didn't even have internet access, I can say this works. I came back with my creative brain rested, refreshed, and ready to hit the ground running with my new wip.

A.J. Mullarky said...

I wish I could make myself take a break. I'm so impatient to finish!

K.D. said...

I never realize I'm on a break until significant time has passed. It's more, I write like crazy; I stop; I feel guilt. Maybe I should allow myself some down time. Hmm...

Lauren Hunter said...

Yes! :D I'm a binge writer, totally.

Krispy said...

I take huge long breaks too, but I realize part of that is laziness. Breaks ARE important though for both rest and getting perspective on the story. I always feel better and more eager to write when I come back from a break. :)

Pam Harris said...

YES! I absolutely believe that we need breaks from writing. When I go a few weeks without writing anything, I'm itching to get back into the game--and the ideas are abundant. :)

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Such a great point! So much of my writing is done when I'm away from my computer. I live for those shower ideas. A lot also come to me just as I'm waking up or falling asleep.

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