Breaks are extremely important when writing. Even though it might feel like your brain and hands could keep going for hours, that’s really not good for you. You don’t want to burn yourself out before your writing time ends. And chances are, the longer you wait to take a break, the harder it will be to come back after you finally do.
One of the hardest things about “clarity breaks” is returning to what you were working on before you walked away with (hopefully) the attention and focus necessary to get massive amounts of writing done.
If you choose the wrong “relaxation” activity, you might end up turning a break into … well, the rest of your day. And that’s not helpful. Or fun. Or rewarding. In the long-term, anyway.
Instead of thinking of breaks as “relaxation,” think of them as “restoration.” You want to choose activities that energize you and prepare you to gear back up, not the other way around.
Here’s how to manage your writing breaks the “smart” way.
- Avoid games, shows, and yes — even books. These things are very relaxing and can relieve stress while (maybe) taking your mind off your work for a while. But once you start these activities, it’s very hard to stop. There is always one more level, one more episode, one more chapter. Don’t fall into the trap!
- Do a physical activity, outside, with a time or distance limit. This will not only clear your head, but can also allow you to step away from your work for a very specific amount of time. Having an end mark when taking a break is extremely important. You probably won’t want to walk “just one more mile.” I mean, you might. Maybe stick close to home.
- Step completely away from your screen, desk, and/or writing area. They say you shouldn’t do non-bedroom-specific activities in your bedroom if you want to get a good night’s sleep — e.g., no reading or watching TV in the place you plan to snooze. The same applies to your work area. Do work where you work, and clear your head away from that place. Most of us don’t have separate computers for work and play, but do the best you can.
- Choose a “warmup” activity that gets you back into deep-focus mode. Once your break is over, it’s sometimes hard to jump straight back into what you were doing before. If you know something (with an end!) usually motivates you on a consistent basis, use that as your pre-writing activity. There are a few songs I’ll pick from to blast for several minutes before I’m ready to write, for example. They always put me in the right mindset to get back to work.
Breaks are so good and so important! Take them! But don’t get too carried away. I just try to remember that one time I decided to take a quick break from working on my novel, started watching Grey’s Anatomy from the beginning, and didn’t stop for 13 seasons … DON’T DO THAT. DON’T BE LIKE ME!
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.