So I’m trying this new thing where, on Sundays, I don’t do any writing. Or any work, for that matter.
I started doing it originally because my hands and wrists were bothering me one week (something you never really want to happen to you, being a writer) and I figured I needed to give them a decent break.
I really, really liked doing it that one time. So I tried it again. And I liked it even more.
The “day of rest” concept is nothing new in general (I mean, God allegedly did it first). But it’s new to me. I am not good at taking breaks, and have this habit of working nonstop for about six months and then crashing and burning for about a week straight before starting the cycle over again.
Hence, sad hands.
I’m trying to do better.
But I was extremely nervous at first. As in, I had a hard time falling asleep that first Saturday night. I worried that I wasn’t going to be able to relax, that I’d spend the whole day on my couch worrying about all the work I wasn’t doing.
Also, I don’t like NOT using my free time. I mean, I’ve said at least a hundred times on this blog that writers who don’t use at least some of their downtime to write aren’t making the most of their oh-so-valuable time.
But … it’s one day a week. I had a feeling it wasn’t actually doing to kill me, so I decided the best thing to do would be to try it.
The day itself was pretty uneventful. I ran, had a lot of time along my 10-mile trek to think about writing in general, watched a lot of TV, read plenty of other people’s words. Thought about everything I wasn’t doing. Fell asleep Sunday night feeling a little down — after all, I hadn’t “done” anything, and that felt weird.
And then, the next morning, I woke up.
I won’t exaggerate and say I felt completely refreshed or that there wasn’t any leftover guilt. But as the day went on, I did find it a lot easier to organize my thoughts and ideas. I felt truly inspired to do work for the first time in awhile.
It felt good. Not extraordinary, but good.
Stepping away from my keyboard, even just for a day, reminded me that taking breaks is not something you, as a creative, you SHOULD do. It is something you MUST do.
Our brains are not meant to operate in overdrive seven days a week. Especially not for extended periods of time.
You might not notice it, but over time, the quality of your work will start to diminish. You’ll have a harder time putting your thoughts into words. You’ll start to wonder why you feel so tired all the time, and you’ll blame your hard work — but you’ll think, “This is just how it has to be, if I want to succeed.”
It doesn’t have to be that way. In the long-term, taking breaks is what’s going to get you where you want to be. Deep down, you already know it.
Just one day. Don’t touch your keyboard.
You might find it’s one of the best decisions you’ve ever made. You might even decide to do it again.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.