March 16, 2011

take a break

From all writing advice on the interwebz, the number one saying is "Writers write." I've said this before, and I stick by it. Writers do write. But sometimes, this unforgiving mantra needs to step aside and let the writer rest.

Sometimes, it's okay to take a break from writing.

There. I said it.

When you are sick (as I was these past two days), or when life is stressing you the eff out, you can step away from the computer and go watch a cheesy chick flick instead. You can enjoy the tinkling of the windchimes hanging from your back porch. You can sleep (my personal favorite). You can go to the park, or Hobby Lobby, or the coffee shop. You can get away from your writing. The daily writegoal police won't taze you and drag you back to your desk. I promise.

Writers do more than write. We brainstorm. We mull. We zone out in mid-conversation. It's what we do. People are always debating what makes a writer a real writer. There's no real answer to that. Some say it's when a person is published, or when someone is paid to be published. Some say as long as you write everyday, you are a real writer.

As for me, I think that I am a real writer because when people ask me what I do, I say writer. I don't say unemployed, or looking for a job, or housewife. I say novelist. And then of course they ask me what I've written, and I have to tell them it isn't published yet. Commence scoffing.

I may not write everyday, but I brainstorm, I mull, and I zone out quite often. When I'm not writing, I'm thinking about my story in the back of my head. When I take a break and watch a movie, I think how would my characters act in that situation? When I listen to the windchimes, I listen to the sounds of the birds and watch the squirrels. I remind myself to add animals into my wilderness scenes. I smell the fresh sap on the trees in my backyard and think how I can incorporate that into my story. When I sleep, I dream of strange things that generally have no connection to my writing, but those images are stored in my unconscious to use later. When I go to the park, I notice the feel of the sun on my back as I walk, the laughter of children on the playground, and the gossip of their mothers. When I go to Hobby Lobby, I get lost in the objects. Oh that looks like something you'd store treasure in. That looks like something my characters might find in the palace. That looks like a genie's lamp. The quest object in my story looks an awful lot like that. I find inspiration in things I can touch and feel. When I go to the coffee shop (which is generally in a bookstore), I think of how someday, I could walk into the store and find my book on the shelf or see someone reading my book. That motivates me.

Sometimes, getting away from your writing is the best answer to the slow word accumulation, to blank page syndrome, and to being just plain tired of your story for the moment. It's okay to step away, regroup, and tackle the story the next day.

Happy writing!


  1. Oh, thank you, thank you, Brooke, for telling us the "writegoal police" won;t hunt us down. And give us a big old stinking ticket!
    Man, did I need to hear that this week!!!!

  2. This is a really good point. I tend to feel guilty about not writing every day when I'm not feeling well or have other things going on. But maybe we all need to cut ourselves more slack. It's not like the world's gonna end if I don't make my word count goal for the week. And like you said, even when I'm not writing, I'm constantly mulling over my story and thinking of ways to improve it.

  3. *sigh of relief*

    I needed that. Going through a spot right now where I am moving and sick. Not a good motivator for writing, but perfect for mulling.