So, you’ve been pounding out the words. Your fingers ache, your mind is a fuzzy wad of cotton and your eyes feel like they’re going to squeeze out of your head because you’ve been watching your monitor for 14 hours now. You feel like you should just keep writing, that you have to keep writing, but somewhere deep inside you know you need to step away. Yet, you know you’ll feel guilty for taking a break. What do you do?
Well, first off: take that break! Your mind and body are going to need recess from time to time and delaying it or denying yourself that break is only going to hurt you in the long run. Even trained marathon runners have to slow down every once in awhile. It’s called pacing and you need to remember that a steady pace is better than a breakneck one. If you deny yourself, you’re going to gradually begin to burn yourself out. It is better to take a short break now and come back refreshed than wait until you give up in frustration. It will take you longer to recover from getting burned out in the long run.
So, now that you are on break, what should you do?
1. Take a freaking nap. Seriously, turn off your brain for a short while. Take a 30-60 minute nap and let your mind and body rest. Grab some hot tea and a blanket and take a lie down and let your imagination wander. Not only will you wake up refreshed and ready to go, but your unconscious mind might just untangle some sort of literary snag you’ve been fighting. But what if you are not sleepy?
2. Take a walk or do something active. Best option: walk your dog. Not only will you get some exercise and give the dog some time to wander, but you also have the opportunity to play and bond with the dog. Nothing soothes a writing muscle cramp quite like some good old unmitigated puppy affection. However, if the opportunity is there, then an even better activity would be to…
3. Do ‘something’ with a spouse or significant other. Not trying to go blue here, but if you have a wife/husband and they are willing, spending some ‘couple’ time together is a great way to ease your writing stress plus show them that they are as important to you as your writing (or more important). Physical intimacy, even if it’s just some devoted snuggling and snogging can be a great stress reliever. Plus, rosy glow and a jaunty step. <wink><wink><nudge><nudge>
4. Read something informative. Check the news but do not get on social media; it is a sinkhole and will swallow your time. Avoid your television for news, but using a WSJ or Huff Post app on your phone/PC should be fine. Alternately, read a book, especially if it’s a writer you share your genre with or something that might help you in your writing. Might I suggest Chuck Wendig’s 30 Days in the Word Mines? It details his own experience with NaNoWriMo, so it’s topical AND informative.
5. Play a game. Find a family member (or two) and find a board game that will only take 30-60 minutes. If possible, find one that involves creativity or wordplay. Some suggestions I have are Paperback, FunEmployed, Once upon a Time, or Story Wars. I’ve linked to them, so won’t describe each one (although I plan to do reviews of each in the future). However, each involves creativity and imagination as a core aspect of gameplay, so it will keep your mind agile and focused on the creation process, while also giving you some prime family/friend time as well. What about if you don’t have a family or friends to spend time with? First off, get some friends. However, if you have no one to play with and want something you can do on your own, check out Elegy for a Dead World by Dejobaan Games on the Steam Store. This game has you exploring weird alien worlds, finding clues about the aliens on those worlds and then making entries based upon what you think or interpret the story of this civilization to have been. In other worlds, you are writing a fictional account of their history. You then share that with the world. If you’re going to fire up a computer game, hands down this is the best one to try for a writer.
6. Get a drink. Not necessarily an alcoholic one, though that would be fine, if it’s in moderation. Walk (if possible) or drive to a local drink merchant and have a cold/hot refreshing beverage. Sit there and enjoy it. Soak in the environment. Watch people and observe them talking and doing things. Ruminate in your own world and thoughts. Work through a tricky part of your narrative in your mind. Mainly give yourself an excuse to be away from the computer/typewriter and nuzzle with your thoughts.
Separation is the key in all of these examples. Stepping away from the novel-writing and giving yourself a refreshing or enriching pursuit will not only make it easier to get back to work productively, but will also eliminate any guilt you might feel for doing so. Remember that your goal is to learn to write effectively and with dedication, but not to barrel down the path haphazardly. At the end of the month, you want to feel like jumping back into the story and really cleaning it up. Ideally, your writing doesn’t end on December 1st; your writing career just starts.
Any other ideas? Please share them!