by Peggy Bechko
Had a computer crisis this past week that pretty much shut down my writing and couldn’t do a whole lot since the work I was in the middle of was on the computer. So I cleaned up the office, read, made a few notes and couldn’t help but take some of that extra time to refocus from being irritated with the whole computer thing and contemplate some aspects of my writing career.
One that popped to mind was taking a break from writing (since I was ‘enjoying’ just such an enforced break at the moment).
You might say “I’m a writer! I write every day! I don’t take no stinkin breaks! I’m a writer!” (yep, with all those exclamation points)
Hmm, well, sit back, relax, take a mini break and read on.
There really are times to take a break.
One of them is to let a story you’ve finished writing, whether novel or script, relax, breathe and find its center – without you. Oh, you could start editing right away, but a bit of time for the plot to sit quietly while your brain turns things over a bit is really what you need. Maybe do a run-through for spelling, typos and grammatical errors, then take a break.
You could work on another writing project, but wouldn’t it be better to maybe just make a few notes if you have an idea, and not muck up the works with too many things fermenting?
And I’ll add, we writers really do need to schedule a regular day off. Too many of us, too often just keep on going. You do need occasional time off. It’s good for your psyche, it’s good for your body, it’s good for your family. Really, trust me on this. It’ll stave off writer’s burn-out.
Now those are just days off, you remember, like a weekend. I take weekends off regularly as I agreed with my husband. I write (and work on submission and promotion) all week and he works at his job. Come the weekend we like to spend time together. So unless I have a demanding deadline the weekends are clear.
And that’s just weekends. What about a regular vacation? Yes, I mean a time when you actually take a week or two off, clear the mind, just kick back and have fun?
What, you say you don’t need one?
Yes you do. Your brain will only stretch so far before it snaps or goes limp as a noodle. Then the dreaded burn-out; the I can’t think of a damn thing zone settles in. Do yourself a favor. Even if you can’t run off somewhere, give yourself some time off. A week or two at least. You’ll make it up when you get back to it. Promise.
Lastly there’s the really long break that might be months, even years. For most, I’d venture to say all writers, this isn’t a choice, but it can happen. Maybe there’s a major change in your life. Something you need to focus on, something that just won’t let you write. It happened to me when my mother was dying. I wrote only one script in two years and that was because I was contracted to ghost it. I spent most of my time at a nursing home.
Was the work any good? Looking back on it now I’d say it was among my best. I was so stressed it somehow seeped into the script and gave it a very taut feel (luckily it was the type of story that taut worked well in).
Then there was the appendicitis-writing break – that wasn’t fun either.
But here’s the lesson. If it happens, for whatever reason, for that time, let go. Breathe. It doesn’t mean you’ll never come back to writing. It doesn’t mean you’re not a writer. Don’t set perameters that make you crazy. Yes you need self-discipline, yes you probably need a schedule, but life can throw you a curve. Be writer-limber enough to dodge and weave.