A Day Off You Say?
From the time we first pick up a pen and put words to blank pages, writers are ingrained with one overbearing, overwhelming and over-exaggerated rule: Write every day.
We get it from writing classes, instructors, peers, articles online. We get it from conferences and our author heroes. Write every day. Some say write for a few hours. Others say write a certain number of words. However, it is presented the rule is the same: Do not let a day go by without putting words from your head out ready to be read.
While I don’t disagree with the sentiment, I feel that because it is dead-horse beaten into us, it has taken a wrong turn in the “how to be a writer” guide book of life. You need to take breaks. By breaks, I do not mean to stop for food and water and for those brave few, to go to the restroom. I mean you need an actual break. A full day or two, when you can go out and live your life.
By all means, use the time to help your writing, but don’t actually write. I feel that you need the time to do other things, even if they are related to writing. That physical act of writing needs to be stopped though, even for a while.
Need Some Examples?
Not to fall into a “do as I say” category (I don’t want that), I will tell you some of the things I do when I take my day(s) off from physical writing.
Get Your Facts
1. Research. I research the hell out of things. Especially what I am currently working on. I also research details for projects I have that are still in the idea stage or things that are in a drawer awaiting the red pen edits. I gather the information that will push my writing forward.
2. People Watch. This has always been a big one for me. Watching people is one of my greatest loves. I sit in public places and watch passers-by and take note of clothing, hairstyles, things they are holding and eating. I try to catch little nuances that make that person who they are. Perhaps some jewelry or a limp when they walk. I listen to the laughter and arguments. I listen to the words used. Then, I take all this information and I place it on my characters. People watching is great for character development.
Gain Some Knowledge
3. Read. The more you read the better you write. This is just plain fact. You grow your vocabulary, you gain experience. You learn how plot twists and plot holes are used by those that have seen the glory of the published world. Read and read some more. You can never read too much.
4. Go outside. People watching aside, being outside and doing simple tasks… going for a walk, shopping, etc. These things can create ideas for new projects. I once took two days off from writing in a row and spent about 80 percent of those 48 hours outside. In the end, I had five new projects in my idea notebook.
Take a Risk
5. Take part in writing groups. Reading and offering advice of someone else’s work in return for the same with your work is an incredible and invaluable venture. Find out where you stand in the minds of others (scary!) and learn tricks and techniques that will help your writing read even better. As long as you can take criticism without throwing a chair, you will see your projects blossom into something you didn’t even fathom before.
Find Your Own Path
By all means, find your own things to do, or follow along with mine. Please, though, take a day off. You need to write. If you don’t write you will never be done. You need to enjoy what you do, though. Stepping away for a while will allow you to enjoy it, even more, when you return.
Enjoy your ventures, have fun with them.