Relaxation, rest, respite – however you want to think of it, as humans we all need it regularly, and it’s something I certainly find difficult to work into my writing schedule, and I bet some of you guys know exactly what I’m talking about!
My father was self employed for decades (in fact I’m not sure he’s quite retired yet – at 74 I guess he needs something to keep him busy!) and he always says that if you want to have any sort of a life outside work, you shouldn’t be self employed. I have to say that after a few years at this game, I disagree with this opinion, but I can also completely see where it comes from.
As a salaried or waged employee, there is generally a bargain made, in that every week, fortnight or month – as long as you have performed your job in a way your employer likes – you will get paid a set amount of money. Of course, there isn’t such a deal to be had as a self employed novelist!
From chatting to fellow novelists, it seems that most of us face the same challenges, in that we love to write, we love to publish, but waiting for our marketing strategy to come good can be a challenge, as can managing income peaks and troughs. Of course it’s during the troughs that we have difficulty taking any time out for ourselves, most of us seem to think that by writing every moment we have spare in the day will somehow make our sales numbers spike. If you haven’t realised this yet- it isn’t the case, I’m sorry to reveal!
What does work is making sure that we as writers are taking care of ourselves first and foremost. What this looks like for you might be very different than for me, but some things we all share are a need for nutrition, hydration, movement, daylight, and a little bit of a break from the writing from time to time! Self care is an over used term these days but the concept is absolutely supreme – you can’t pour from an empty cup and I know that when I am feeling drained and tire, I write absolute garbage, which seems pretty counter productive.
So here’s my recommendations for working in breaks to your writing schedule:
- Nutrition. Take the time to make yourself a hot drink or snack that you have to actually leave your laptop to make and consume – it’s often while I’m waiting for the kettle to boil that I get my ideas for the next segment of my book! Not to mention, once you get hungry or thirsty, there’s no way to concentrate on your hero and heroine getting lovey dovey.
- Sunlight and Movement. Get outside for a walk if you can, if that isn’t practical or possible, walk around wherever you happen to be writing for at least 5 or 10 minutes, and try and make it near a window. The blood moving around your body and the sunlight hitting your eyes is absolutely invaluable for refreshing the body and the creative juices.
- Keep a Refillable Bottle of Water on Your Desk. It is so important to hydrate all organs- including your brain. That way, not only do you think clearer, it also gives you plenty of bathroom breaks! This is a great way to force a few minutes away from the screen, again giving your eyes and your mind a break.
- Be Creative, but not with words. Take a break from writing for a minute and try something else creative, perhaps singing and dancing for the length of a song, picking up an instrument maybe, or even doing something artistic. If you have the skills, make your book cover, or even try sketching out art panels if that’s your thing.
- Make Time to Use your Brain. Human brains just seem to work better if they are a little mixed up during the day. You remember the horror of double maths at school? Well it’s no better as an adult to spend too long on one task! I mean, if I try to spend 8 hours writing, I’m basically staring at the screen by about hour 2, while my mind rebels and tells me all the reasons I can’t move on from where I am. Much better to regularly take 10 minutes away from the manuscript to shock your mind a bit. Pick your poison: be it reading, knitting, whatever gets you going really! Personally I love a game (or 5) of solitaire, for me it is the perfect game to take my mind away from my storyline! Recently, I have found a new version (well, new to me anyway) and have got into Klondike solitaire which is more complicated than regular and tests my brain in a very different way to story lines and character development. My next treat to myself will be trying out mahjong solitaire – it looks completely bananas and I’m so looking forward to playing with those pretty tiles!
So, there are my top tips to stay refreshed and on track during your writing day, I hope they help keep you productive and feeling fresh!