It’s okay to turn it off for a while. Perhaps this tip flies in the face of other tips that have encouraged writers to write, write, write, to keep writing, to push, to never say never, but sometimes I need to put my work-in-progress aside and take a break. Creative writing is so much more consuming than my freelance writing work, which I can finish, send and then close up shop for a while without even thinking about. But with novel writing, I feel like my brain is always on. If you’re anything like me, you eat, sleep, and breathe your books. You constantly think about them, and your mind is always observing and absorbing. Frankly, it’s exhausting.
Only you can know when you need that break and how long you need — a few days, maybe, or a week. But keep it relatively short and finite. Have an official “back to work” day on the calendar. The last thing you want is for that break to turn into a months-long hiatus (I reserve those for when I have finished my first draft and am to start my first revision — see Writing Tip #8).
Now does this mean that I should ignore any ideas or insights that should come my way when I’m on this sanctioned time off? Of course not. That would drive me crazy, and I would spend my vacation time worried that I’d forget whatever it was I was trying to remember. Instead, when that happens I simply whip out a notepad or my smartphone, jot the idea down, and try to forget about it until I return to writing.
After I take these kinds of short, much-needed breaks, I find that I feel refreshed and recharged and ready to pound some keys again. I hope you do too.