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Monday, May 7, 2012

The Importance of Taking a Break

My main characters were fighting last week.

The argument shouldn't have taken that long. It wasn't even a single scene; just complete rewrites to part of a scene, to reinforce and clarify one of the novel's themes. But whenever I tried to work on it, I kept getting distracted. Or I'd be on the verge of something, only to run out of time (usually, because my lunch break was over or I had to go to bed. Such is life). By Friday, I was worn from the week and fed up.

So what did I do? Be responsible, and sleep on it? Try to work on another project? Maybe push my way through it, in hopes that I'd finally finish?

Nah, I did what any good self-respecting geek would do: I totally ... uh, geeked out.

Friday night the hubby and I caught The Avengers. (A must-see. Seriously.) Then Saturday afternoon was Free Comic Book Day, where we hit up a few shops to sample their wares. (The awesome thing about FCBD is that the comic shops usually have sales, too. Very worth it.) And to top it all off, early Saturday evening we caught a local, blood-spewing production of Evil Dead: The Musical. (We sat in the splatter zone. To be perfectly honest, I was a little disappointed by this one. Not enough red in the blood, so my shirt came out looking like I'd been drenched in pink Kool-Aid. And I was told it would wash out ... oh well, glad I took my friend's advice and wore a shirt I didn't care about. Much.)

The point is, I took a break.

If you do a search for "The Importance of Taking Breaks", you'll find plenty of articles, including a few about writing. Boiled down, they all say what I sometimes forget: that we can't stay focused on a single thing all the time. We need to step away from what we're working on, because if we don't, we can go crazy. Whether it's a hike in the woods, a round at the gym, drinks with friends, or even just doing something else that you love, that mental vacation is important. It gets our brains working in other ways. It allows the part of us that was focused on finishing that story rest for awhile.

...Aaand I just realized that I'm accidentally continuing my theme of When "Butt In Chair" Doesn't Apply here, but it's true. Yes, working on your project is important. That story needs you as much as you need it. But the story needs to breathe, too.

So what happened after my geek-out? Well, my hubby spared me the Joss Whedon movie I didn't want to see (given that I'm not a horror fan), and went to watch Cabin in the Woods with a friend. I was alone in the house. Peace and quiet. I re-opened the story.

And suddenly, it all came together.

Amazing what taking a break can do!

So, what about you? How do you take breaks from writing? What fuels your creative energies?

Originally posted at


  1. I have to take breaks since I'm prone to burnout. Usually it's when I finish a project. The longest I've stepped away from a manuscript is two years! And as you know, while taking a breather, I binge read. That's what fuels me up.

    Congrats on the breakthrough!

  2. I very much believe in taking breaks. Your mind just can't keep producing without some time to lie fallow and rejuvenate itself. Personally I can hardly find time to write so taking breaks isn't really necessary. Unless life is just too much for me.

  3. Right now taking a break from refuel. But realized I just need a break from the writing, not all of the wonderful reading out there! Taking a bigger than planned break from my novel and discovering this might be a good thing!

  4. I often find that taking a break and spending some time outdoors inspires me. That's where I'm often able to figure out where a story needs to go. My mind runs rampid. Too much time at the computer often bogs me down.