Yes, of course we should write every day, if we’re serious about our profession. But there may be times where we are absolutely depleted. Perhaps we’ve been writing consistently for months or just completed a major deadline with some all-nighters. Perhaps other areas of life are so burdensome that we can’t eke out another word. Whatever might be the circumstances at our desks, or in our lives or hearts, we writers need to recharge once in a while!
Here are five ways a writer can recharge before bounding back into that next big project:
Stop writing. Yes, it seems risky. Will we ever get back into the groove? I suggest identifying a set amount of time to stop writing. Decide it ahead of time: I’m not going to write today. Or for three days, so I can go away for the weekend. I’m going to take a one-week break. A one-month break. Or whatever you think best for your situation. Whatever you decide, stick to it. Calendar the start and end dates. When that period is over, start writing again.
I am always more prolific as a writer when I’m reading. Even when I’m not writing, my daily reading encourages and motivates me by spurring new ideas, jolting me into a new world or line of thinking, taking me out of myself and my life circumstances. As an additional recharge, read a completely new type of work rather than your normal nightstand fare. If you read novels, try a book of short stories. If you love biography or nonfiction, try reading a play or book of poems instead. If you’re into graphic novels, try historical fiction, and so on. Mix it up. Your brain will be ready for so much more and you will take more creative risks when it’s time to return to the writer’s chair.
3. TRY VISUAL ART.
Our textually-focused writer’s brain gets a breath of fresh air when we get up from the laptop and look at something else — namely, a bit of visual art. Visiting a museum, seeing a film, painting a canvas, taking photographs or sketching a drawing of our own — any of these can keep us in a creative zone while giving us a mental break. When we do something else with our eyes and hands besides being at the computer, new light bulbs can flash on in our heads. I’ve gotten some of my best story ideas while strolling museums.
4. GET OUT AND EXERCISE!
I’m not the best example of following this piece of advice, but I certainly do feel better when I take a brisk walk in between writing stints. The same goes for infusing longer breaks with physical activity. Any kind. Walk along the beach or a nearby lake. Listen to music while you go. Hike. Swim. Try gardening, even. But still take that notepad or iPhone voice recorder app with you in case inspiration strikes. Or just use the time to reflect, pray, relax, and look at the world around you (even if you’re in a gym).
5. BE WITH PEOPLE.
What’s tricky here is that having coffee, drinks or lunch with a friend or loved one is often one of the most tempting ways a writer can get distracted from a daily writing schedule. It’s so much more fun to talk about your latest writing project than to actually write it, right? But if you’ve been inside for too many days, haven’t shaved, haven’t made a call or replied to a friend’s text in a while, perhaps it’s time to re-enter the land of the living and let the real people in your life refresh you a bit.
Hearing about what’s going on for others (good or bad) will take you out of your routine and provide some new perspective and ideas when you return to your own work. But make sure you put a limit on how many of these social outings you do per week and that you are having at least as many writing sessions each week.
What can we expect after recharging?
No, the Pulitzer-Prize winning piece will not automatically zip out of our fingers. The laundry will start piling up again. Circumstances around us won’t be any different, but we will be. Our mind will be clearer and so will our output. We will return to our writing with more energy and productivity. Even if our writing doesn’t dramatically improve or speed up, our life will have expanded and balanced out a bit, which can only help our writing routine — and everything else.