Sunday, September 4, 2016

Sometimes The Best Way To Improve Your Writing Is Not To Write

We all read those blog posts by writers (myself included) that say that you should write every day. Create a routine, write at least a little bit daily. And for the most part, it's good advice. If you aren't a writer but working to get better at something, the same rule of thumb applies. To get better, you need to practice regularly. 

ipad, tablet, calendar, time, keyboard, macbook, laptop, technology, office, desk, business, meetingBut sometimes the best thing I do for my writing is not to write. When writing becomes routine and I start to lose the joy of it, then some time off is just the ticket. I'm not talking about taking a year off or even a whole month. I mean a few days or even a week or two. And I'm not talking about not getting my writing in because I'm busy. I'm saying that sometimes it's best to simply say--and even put it on my calendar if need be--that I'm not going to try to write this week. I'm going to take a few days away and do other things. Maybe take a trip and not take my computer so I'm not tempted. Or lie in bed for fifteen extra minutes in the morning, just enjoying the opportunity to wake up slowly instead of hitting the ground already running. Take longer walks, read more, visit with friends--all the things we sacrifice for this thing we've chosen to do but still get a little frustrated by how much of our lives it consumes sometimes. 

beach, houses, sand, footprints, beach, rocks, shore, purple, sky, clouds, ocean, seaAnd by doing that, I find that when I go back to the writing, the joy has reappeared. I look forward to writing again. And I notice that I see my work-in-progress with fresh eyes. I become aware of plot-holes that weren't evident when I was in the midst of writing. I am excited to hear the voices of my characters again, to see where they've decided to go while I wasn't consciously thinking about them. 

How do I know how long to take off? There's no formula. I guess the best answer is just long enough. Long enough to be refreshed but not so long that I lose the habit and also lose the feel for the book I'm working on. Long enough that I start to miss it. 
restaurant, bar, drinks, beer, alcohol, smoking, people, talking, laughing, smiling, fun, tables, chairs, signs, license plates, friends
So, how about you? Whether you're a writer or singer or artist of another kind or you build houses or work in an office, if there's something you do for joy--as a vocation or a hobby--do you ever feel the need to step away from it for a while? If so, how do you decide when to go back to it? I'm interested to know what you think. 

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