If you have children in school, you know all about breaks: Spring/Easter, Winter/Christmas, Summer Vacation, and all the other holidays, staff days etc. our schools manage. If you work outside the house, there’s those wonderful days called vacation. Many work places allow workers to take a certain amount of off days. I know one friend who calls them her mental health days—days where she can just take a day off when needed. Kids and adults alike get or take breaks and vacations or even an occasional mental health day.
I’ve noticed that writer’s just keep going like that little pink bunny. Writers write, even during kids’ breaks, vacations, summers, etc. We’re always struggling to find those few precious minutes to write every single day. How about going on a vacation and taking that lap top or Alpha Smart to get another few pages written? How often do you declare to the world that you are on break, or are taking a vacation? And on those breaks or vacations, do you leave the writing behind; adopt a no writing allowed rule? How about a mental health day to let to relax and refill the well?
When is the last time you, as a writer took a break or vacation? Writers spend a lot of energy writing. It may not be physical activity but it is mental work and in my opinion, more exhausting. No eight-hour job I had ever exhausted me as much as four hours of writing. Add to that, being hunched over the keyboard, eyes glued to a screen, and yes, there is the physical effect on our bodies.
For some reason, writers don’t take breaks. Somehow, we’ve convinced ourselves that real writers write every day, no matter what. It doesn’t matter that we’ve just spent six months or a year or more slaving over a manuscript. Take a break? No way. Have to start the next book. And if the book we just turned in was under contract, then we are already behind on the marketing, promotion, and social media.
So the cycle begins anew. One book after another, without taking real-time to just relax and let our bodies recover and our minds refill and even find some balance (that’s a topic for another time). In other words, no breaks or vacations. There’s much to be said for the breaks our children receive. Shouldn’t we as writers adopt this philosophy? And don’t forget those odd mental health days. If teachers get staff days and all the holidays and such, then we should as well.
In the long run, writer are better off for taking time off. It benefits our careers and our health. There is nothing wrong with taking a month or two off after completing a book to have that summer vacation, or a few weeks off during the holidays. Of course, deadlines and contracts might suggest that your vacation or break be only a week or two.
Regardless, taking time off does not mean you’re not a writer. (Where did this idea that writers must write every day to be considered a real writer come from anyway?) It means that you are in tune with your mind and body. Sure, you can go from one book to another with no time off. For a while. But if you neglect your body and mind, both will let you down when you need them the most.
Listen to your body. If the writing isn’t coming, if you rebel against placing butt in chair and fingers on keys, then maybe you’ve pushed yourself too far and need a break. How long has it been since you stole a day of play? If you can’t remember the last day you didn’t write (days where the family or work claim your time and energy don’t count.)
So take that break. A spring break or winter break or a summer break. Maybe a once a season break. How long? As long as you need.
Now, by writing this, you’d think I live by my words, right? Um, no. I seem to be going from one project to another. A write-for-hire novella, then a novella from my contract with my publisher. A circle of projects. Luckily, I can at any point schedule the work for hire out or skip a month, etc. And my contract with my publisher has four more novellas due. I figure I’ll be done in November and you can bet your first-born that I’m taking December off. I’m claiming a winter break. Of course, I say this now, knowing that I’ll need to get a proposal done for the next contract but if I’m smart and savvy I’ll get that done in November so I can have my holiday.