Taking breaks is important. As mortal Earthlings, moderation with everything is vital; we can’t handle too much of anything. This is why we sleep at night. This is why we take breaks at work. This is why we take school breaks during the summer and Christmas time. And this is also why we should take breaks from creating.
When I decided to become a writer, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. My perspective on being a writer was a lot different from what it is now. When I was a teenager, I saw writing as a hobby, something fun and creative to do on the side, however and whenever I felt like it. Now I realize that being a writer is not that. Instead, it’s pushing myself to improve my craft, setting goals and putting aside a time to write everyday whether I feel like or not. Being a writer isn’t writing only when you want to; if that were true, I wouldn’t be writing anything.
However, like everything else in life, being a writer also means taking breaks from writing. If you work on your WIP for an hour every single day, there will come a time when you’ll get burnt out. A break in this case is entirely necessary because after you come back to it after a few days, weeks, or even months, your mind and perspective is fresh and you will want to dig into your WIP once again. Because if you’re a writer, writing is a part of you and can’t be easily ignored forever. But taking writing breaks is important because once you give your mind and your creativity space to breathe and re-fuel, you will eventually feel the innate urge to write. You’ll crave it. You’ll miss it. Yes, writing becomes like work as it is mentally, physically, and emotionally challenging, and that’s why you must take breaks once in a while. But it’s the kind of work that, when done in moderation, is a work that you can enjoy.
Also, please note that every writer is different. Depending on your personality, your writing project, and the amount of time you spend on it, you may only need to take a few days’s break, or a few months. After NaNoWriMo last November, I didn’t touch Fiction’s Lie for an entire month, but now I’m itching to get back to it, now that my mind is ready and my perspective is fresh and my creativity is no longer depleted. But there are writers who don’t stop after NaNoWriMo; some jump right into editing or completing their word count on December 1, and that’s just how they roll. But some writers need to take many breaks often. Some writers need to take breaks very seldom. And that’s humanity for ya; we’re all different, and so the way we do things will be different as well.
As a bonus, here’s a bullet list of of activities to keep your creativity from stagnating when you’re taking a break from writing your WIP:
- Try something new. Add a new skillset. Cook something you’ve never made before. Learn an instrument. Try a different type of exercise. Sometimes doing something different is all your brain needs to refresh and get back on track.
- Some of you may shake your heads at this one, but I’m saying it anyways: Chase your plot bunnies. Sometimes, it’s not writing in general, but your current WIP more specifically that you need to take a break from. Perhaps you’re feeling burnt out solely because your plot or your characters are misbehaving, and so it’s always a good idea to try your writing skills and creativity elsewhere. Have fun creating new characters and worlds, and try different plot-building techniques recommended by other writers.
- Try short and fun writing exercises. Pinterest is a hive full of them in all formats: Short-sentence story prompts, images, quotes, etc. etc. My favorite exercise writing with music. I open a blank word document, shuffle my film scores, and create a new character for each song I listen to. Or I write a random scene inspired by a film score, writing for the whole duration of the song. These exercises not only improve my typing speed, but also challenge my ability to create a character or an entire scene in only a few minutes—and they give me plenty of fresh plot bunnies and character ideas that get stored in my idea cache.
- Watch a favorite movie and decide what about it makes it your favorite movie. Take notes as you watch it. Afterwards, ask yourself writing related questions about it. What about this movie inspired you with your writing? Write a mini movie review as a writer. How well-developed was the plot? What are the characters like? If you wrote the script or directed the move, what would you change, what would you keep the same, and why?
- Read. This one’s a no-brainer. The more you read, the more you grow as a writer as well. Learn from the greats—and the not-so-greats.
So, wrapping up, take writing breaks. If you’re feeling particularly uncreative or burnt out, maybe that’s a sign that you should take a break, if you’ve been writing constantly for a long time. In the meantime, share your thoughts on taking breaks from writing, or comment below telling me what you do on your writing breaks and how often you take them. You know me; I like to see what y’all think. Cheers to a new year! I wish you success in your writerly endeavors.