Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Take a Break

I love to write.  I know - shocking!  I like to play with words and figure out how to craft a sentence in order to bring out the maximum amount of emotion in a reader.  Writing is a great release from the pressure of the day, and I can't imagine not doing it.

That aside, there is something to be said for burnout.  We've got to learn how to step back and take a break sometimes.  We need to watch a movie that requires no thought or sit alone on a beach and stare at the surf.

"But Russ," you say, "how are we to become world famous authors if we don't write?"

I'm not saying to give up writing - I'm saying that we should take it in slower measures sometimes so that we can preserve the creative zeal and story quality that makes what we do fun.  There is more to life than writing, and if we lose sight of that, our writing will end up sucking out loud.

I'm in the middle of writing another novel to build my stash for when this writing thing goes full time.  I'm at 90,000 words of what I project will be about 120,000(before editing).  However, I take breaks in order to enjoy things like my daughter's Tahitian dance classes or help my wife decorate our house for Halloween.

I also refuse to write more than 5,000 words in a single day.  Usually I only do 1,000 to 2,000, but I steadfastly refuse to do more than 5,000.  Why?  Because after 5,000, the words begin to blur together and I lose focus.  I forget to be patient and allow the story to develop, and I begin to assume the reader will know what I'm talking about, even if I don't describe it well.  Also, a lot of times, I'll start to outrun my outline, and that almost never leads to good results.  Therefore, I stop at 5,000 words so that I can let the story breathe and retain a certain level of excitement when I pick it up the next day.

More writers need to remember the need to break away from the work sometimes and just do other things.  Besides giving the brain a break, experiencing other things allows us a broader base of perspective that we can bring to our work.  The battle scenes in Salvation Day wouldn't be anywhere near as intense if I hadn't participated in certain events that shaped my world.  Akeldama would've been a lot less thrilling if I hadn't been able to break away from writing and tried to enjoy other hobbies.

Learning how to break away can be hard.  We define ourselves by what we do, and a lot of us feel guilty if we aren't writing every single day.  I know that in the past I've talked about how writing is like going to the gym - miss one day, and it's easier to miss another.  However, even the best conditioned gym rat needs a break from clanking down barbells every day.  If you keep missing your writing because you just didn't feel like it, that's one thing; however, taking calculated rest breaks helps the mind recover from the daily grind and figure out how to recharge so the next story is even better.

So take a break.  Go on a vacation without your laptop and enjoy Disneyland with your family.  Put away the outline and go fishing.  These things keep us sane and help us define our writing instead of the other way around.

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