Stop Writing Now! 5 Ways Taking a Break Is Good For Your Writing

Sometimes as writers, we feel guilty if we’re not producing a certain number of words a day. It’s so easy to fall into the routine of writing, writing, writing, that we almost get too close to our work, adopting troubling “tunnel vision” and depleting our energies.

Every once in a while, it’s important to step away from the usual writing routine; changing gears can give your brain a rest, allow ideas to germinate, and encourage the “writer’s mind” to recharge.

Here are 5 non-writing activities that may actually benefit your writing:

1.    If you like to draw…try Zentangles.

Have you heard of “Zentangles”? I’ve just learned how to draw these small, intricate art forms, which require a great deal of focus. It may sound intimidating to do, but the result is very relaxing. Just accomplishing one forces me to pay attention to such tiny details that I can’t think about anything else, much less any writing projects that are jamming my brain.

If you’re not a fan of Zentangles, try doodling, filling in a page of a coloring book, or drawing your favorite pet.

2.    If you love physical exercise…try a new workout.

When we write, our bodies become stagnant. Exercise helps increase your circulation and refuel your energy. And, trying a completely new workout routine during your writing break is a great way to take your mind off your work as you focus on learning the new physical task.

If you’re not a fan of tackling something completely different in your exercise routine, simply taking a break for some physical act like walking the dog, strolling around a new neighborhood, or taking half an hour to stretch can be enough to revitalize your mind and body. It’s all about getting that blood flowing.

3.    If you play music…try a complex new concerto.

Diving into an intricate creative task is a fantastic way to jog your artistic right brain, especially if you feel locked up into a regimented writing routine. Plus, a particularly challenging feat will force you to go beyond your comfort zone, which is key for any writer. Perhaps that can translate to going beyond the comfort zone of your own writing.

If you don’t play a musical instrument, try tackling a new recipe. Following directions makes you think about each step of the recipe, and how one connects to the next, and to your dish as a whole. This may help you see how one idea in your writing connects to the next and fits in with the whole.

4.    If you enjoy socializing…go out with friends.

Writing can be such a lonely task: most of the time, it’s just you and your words on a page. Therefore, it’s crucial to escape into an environment with real people acting in real ways — which may also give you ideas for dialogue, character traits, and character relationships.

If you’re not a fan of crowds, go see a movie or a play. Choose a genre worlds away from whatever you’re writing about at the moment. The escape may be just what you needed to refresh your mind

5.    If you crave relaxation…go to a spa.

As writers, we don’t always treat ourselves well. We write in our pajamas. We forget to shower. We eat junk food because we don’t want to take a break to cook a meal. The physical act of writing can take a toll, causing cramps or stiffness. Show yourself some kindness and get a facial or a massage. Get your nails done. A more relaxed body and mind can translate to better writing.

If you’re not a fan of the spa or salons, take a nature walk, have a bubble bath, or meditate. Whatever you decide, commit yourself to finding tranquility, even for a few minutes.

Next time you feel like you’ve reached your writing limits for the day, remember how important it is to take a break. You might find that your writing will flow easier and you’ll generate ideas and connections you might never have thought of when you were hunched over that hot computer.

How do you recharge? Share your ideas below.

20 comments on “Stop Writing Now! 5 Ways Taking a Break Is Good For Your Writing

  • This article comes just in time for summer vacation, when I’m often in my study typing away. I know what you mean about “tunnel vision” indeed — and even worse, when I want to take a break I go on Facebook! Probably not helping my eyesight at all lol.

    Your advice to treat yourself by going out or pursuing an artistic feat is solid. People have such high regard for writing as a “right brain” task that they miss the great deal of left-brain power that must go into organizing and analyzing content. I’m off to watercolor right now! LOL

    • How fun! Enjoy, Bryan. And, thanks for chiming in. You bring up an excellent point — it’s so easy to surf the web when the LAST thing we need is more draining minutes on the computer.

      Hopefully where you are has nice weather today. Enjoy it!

  • Bravo! I thought I was the only one that turned to zentangles. Great outlet. (Plus, now I have beautiful hand-decorated coasters.) 🙂

  • I LOVE this!!!!!! Gives us all an excuse to hit the gym AND the spa! I can see why you’re such a popular editor Diane 😉

    I am a slave to my daily routine of taking my dog for a run in the morning. I once read that the author Bill Bryson loves to wake early and plunge into writing, so I’ve done the same. I love writing when the sun rises — it’s my impetus for ripping myself out of bed at 6am or earlier! Walking my dog around 11 is a wonderful break. Plus, it’s when I chat with neighbors; which DOES give me ideas for characters, dialogue, etc.

    This is a great post. I’m so glad it popped up on my twitter feed.

    All best,
    Marjorie

  • Great post. I’m especially refreshed that you didn’t mention grabbing a drink at all on this list! so many of my fellow writing friends charge through their writing at an even more grueling pace just to get to Happy Hour at the end of the day. What is it with people who think that writers HAVE to be alcoholics? Really, there’s just Hunter S….and Tennessee…and O Henry…and Dorothy Parker….oh I guess that’s why.

    Very soothing and empowering post Diane!

  • Noble alternatives to the television, I see!

    Very fun post here. I enjoy the prompt to cook a meal. Never thought about it, but writing a cookbook — or just one recipe — must be a complicated left brained task. Perhaps writing a recipe for someone else would also be a fine way to think in different ways.

    Thank you,
    Roger Wilmingten

    • Thanks for contributing to the conversation Roger. Your idea to write a recipe is really a fantastic one. It’s really about getting down to the details with that task. Try one and let us know how it goes! (And, share the recipe if it works out well.) 🙂

  • Diane, you have described my exact life in the first paragraph of #5! I confess, I confess…I DON’T take great care of myself because, at the end of the day, the deadline seems more important to me. Any other less expensive ways that we can have a spa-quality experience? 😉

    This post really hit home with me. Time for a change! Or at least…time to start daydreaming about it as I type away haha. 😀

    • Hi Lynnette,

      I hear you — the looming threat of a deadline can be enough to rattle anyone’s routine, no matter how well-meaning.

      For a quick yet very soothing experience, I recommend visiting http://www.calm.com. A spa within itself!

      Thanks for chiming in. Wishing you the best of luck with those deadlines.

      Warmly,
      Diane

  • Hi Diane!

    I write letters by hand. It’s a nice release, actually. And turns out it’s quite a workout for my old hands.

  • Fun ideas here. I’ve personally found that taking luxurious breaks such as the ones above totally throw me off of my game. Timed writing and timed breaks are what really kick me into gear. I do see your points, but I’m the kind of writer who can’t relax for too long without getting anxious.

  • Friends of mine look at my life and aspirations as a “writer” and wonder why I get so fatigued after a long day. It’s like they think writing is this relaxing past time, chock full of bursts of inspiration and pleasant bouts of typing. It’s not! This post captures the exact frustrations I try to rely to those who do not write! Thank you. It’s comforting to know that there are others out there who feel the same way.

  • This is an excellent article. In fact many of the tips you share are great for letting your creativity flow whether you’re a writer or not! Excellent!

    -JeeJee

  • I’m an artist — not a writer, I know I know — but I embrace exactly these techniques if my brain becomes too engaged with my current piece in a way that creates what you call “tunnel vision.” That is exactly what it is and it can be so troubling. I particularly enjoy taking up a new artform for a quick break (i am a sculptor by trade, mixed media) such as pastels or weaving. Very soothing and freeing.

  • Splendid tips and quite a lovely photograph as well. Was this taken through Instagram?

    I live outside of Washington D.C. and the heat and humidity here always stalls my progress — I write by night and on weekends. Such lethargy! Perhaps what I need is a retreat and a few days of trying all of these tips!

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