Write every day. Set a word count and don’t get up until you reach it. Butt in chair, hands on keyboard.
Writers get a lot of advice about the importance of pushing ourselves to get the words on the page. It’s a principle I try to live by, and I know I’m not alone. But there are times when the best thing you can do for your writing is to… stop writing.
The creative process is one of cycles. There are times to push hard and there are times to step back. How do you know which are which? Here are three times the best thing you can do is to stop writing.
1. When you finish a draft.
That’s one big brain dump you just pulled. It’s easy to get caught up in your own perceptions of your work. So before you start editing, take a break. Or at very least, work on something else for a while. You’ll come back with a refreshed mind, letting you hone your draft into the best work possible.
Besides, you deserve a chance to celebrate your accomplishment!
2. When you get stuck, and forcing it doesn’t work.
Generally I’m a butt-in-chair type of girl—I believe in the power of persistence to get around most writer's block issues. However, sometimes, determination just isn’t enough.
When this happens, step away and try to do something relaxing. Take a walk, do a puzzle—anything that will quiet your mind and let your subconscious take a stab at it. There’s a good reason for the mid-shower eureka moment stereotype—even when you stop focusing on a problem, your mind is still working on it. Relaxing lets your subconscious try things your conscious brain can’t.
3. After reviewing feedback from a critique.
Our stories are our precious brain-babies. Even when we ask for feedback, our gut reaction to new ideas can be, well, defensive. But before you toss suggestions out the window, take some time away from your manuscript to mull them over. You may end up surprising yourself with the insights you gain by giving new ideas a chance.
Most of the time, it’s in your best interest to stick to a consistent writing routine. But there are times to take a break and let your work breathe. A little mental space never hurt anyone… in fact, it can be just the thing.
By knowing when to push harder and when to step back, you can take advantage of the ebb and flow of the creative process and make your work its very best.
When do you take breaks from your writing routine?
Spend fifteen minutes not writing. Instead, take a walk, close your eyes and meditate, read a book. Do something a bit boring, if you can, something that makes you want to turn back to your writing, but resist the urge. If you get any ideas for your work in progress, jot them down and then go back to not writing.
How does it feel? Refreshing? Share in the comments.