Writer Wednesday: Take a Damn Break

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I just finished the first draft of my new science fiction novel Reclamation, and it feels so good to have finished. It also feels great to take a rest from the project. I know that some writers look at rest periods with a sideward glance—most think that rest can lead to stagnation, and stagnation can kill a project. Certainly, there’s something to the theory. Resting too much can kill progress on any goal. But, rest is important, and I’m here to make the case for taking a damn break once in a while.

Let’s be honest: artistry is work. Hard work. It’s exhaustive, it’s time-consuming, and it’s emotionally consumptive. It takes a lot out of a person to transform thoughts into physical structures. If you doubt that sentiment, I ask you: how excited have you ever been to write an essay or paper for school? Writing is a very draining process, and I find it strange that so many writers agree with that sentiment but also think resting is a dangerous endeavor.

I often liken writing to physical exercise. There are a lot of similarities. When you’re going to the gym for a specific purpose (losing weight, getting stronger, looking better), you don’t spend every free moment at the gym. Why? Because, eventually, your body gets tired. There comes a point at which you are doing more damage by working on. You need to allow your body rest so that it can adapt to the stress of working out and repair the damage you’ve done during your sessions. It’s during the rest and recovery periods that you get what you’re looking for: your body is metabolizing excess fat, repairing muscular tears, and rewiring itself. Rest—more than training—is what makes you strong.

Writing is no different. I see so many writers on social media complaining about how tired they are—about how they’re burning out on projects. Well, sure. (Professionals are also usually busy with family, traveling to conventions, meeting deadlines, and a host of other external factors. Many of them still have day jobs.) It’s easy to burn out when you never take a break. Like every other part of your body, your brain needs to rest after it’s been worked out! Allow yourself to step away from writing for a while—even if you’re staring down a rough deadline—and just relax for a moment. Otherwise, like exercise, you’ll reach a point at which you’re doing more harm than good. Your words will go from focused prose centering on the themes of your novel to fractured nonsense. You’ll start writing for wordcount rather than for deep, meaningful progress.

The same way a sprinter would eventually start limping down the track if they never took a breather.

Now, I’m not condoning rest over work. I’m just saying: treat yourself well and your work will shine. I know that there’s a desire to finish the first draft and jump straight to revisions. I know there’s that nagging urge to write one more chapter for the day, even if you feel like your brain is leaking out of your ears. You want to make progress, and that’s great! But, as I keep saying: you’ve just got to rest. Take a break between those major revisions, between the acts of your project, between chapters, and at regular intervals throughout your daily writing sessions.

You aren’t a piece of shit for getting up from the keys now and then. You aren’t a terrible writer for taking a day off from writing to binge some Netflix. You aren’t going to fail forever if you step away from that finished first draft to gather yourself.

Earn your breaks. Work hard when you’re working, and rest hard when you’re resting. If you can find the proper balance, your mind will let you know when it’s time to get back to business. Just like working out. I recently spent a huge amount of time away from the gym, and my body started to become unhealthy. (At least, for my standards.) I saw the signs and said, “Yep, time to get back to the gym.” Same for taking a writing break. I’m excited to start up the revisions on Reclamation, and I think that’s in part because I’ve taken some time away from the project. I’ve given myself the space I needed to take a breather, celebrate my accomplishments, and return to the project with a fresh mind.

Please, take care of yourselves, writers. Don’t beat yourself up for resting. Rest is good. That’s why we sleep.

I love you all! I hope you enjoyed reading! After you take a break from this article, go check out some of my other stuff! (Or—better yet—go write.)

Stay awesome!

— R.

Ronin writes every day, but he makes sure to take proper breaks for the gym, travel, and being a goofball. You can check out the entire body of his work on InstagramFacebookTumblrTwitter, and WordPress. Subscribe to his YouTube channel for neat videos every last Friday of the month, and be on the lookout for video versions of Writer Wednesday coming soon!

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Teach peace!

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