Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Taking a break from it all.

There's been lots of ideas coming from the Supernatural hivemind on things we do to get creative. Kim makes space - I've gotten into that a bit more as well, ensuring that nothing else is going on except me and the words. Terri reads (I can read when I'm editing, or between books, but when I'm drafting - no can do). Pamela and Jocelynn both listen to music (I need complete silence). Amanda uses images - the real estate website is a great idea and I know other people who are made for images but that doesn't work for me. Helen's three pages in the morning sound wonderful.

For me, however, the thing that really works is taking a break.

It probably sounds counter-intuitive - that taking time off the computer helps me when I'm on it. But the thing is, I find I dry up if I spend too long at it. I can pound out some great wordage, sure, but then my brain gets overloaded. Push it too far, and it will come to a standstill.

But taking a break doesn't mean a break from the story. Far from it - it's a break from that act of sitting and fingers moving on keyboard, but I'm still working, things ticking away in the background.

I walk so much the soles are wearing off!
Sometimes, it will involve taking a walk. In fact, I try to make a walk a regular part of my routine, and certainly on writing retreats every morning starts with a walk. But if I get stuck, I will find that a meander around the block will help unclog whatever got stuck.

The shower is a brilliant break tool. I've lost count of the number of times I've had a great idea in the shower. The bath really doesn't work as well. Baths are for reading while drinking a fabulous red wine. Something about the water falling on your head shakes things loose.

Sometimes, a big break is called for and that's when I nap. In fact, when I'm drafting, I sleep A LOT. My brain isn't used to working so hard ;) But often I'll wake up and know exactly what I need to do next in the story.

The paper weight I made at the Canberra Glassworks
Having a new experience is a great way to use a break. Going to a new restaurant and trying a new type of cuisine. Going for a drive to a part of town you've never been before. Learning a new skill or giving something a go (eg we've got a glassworks in town and you can go and do a half-hour session to create your own paper weight - great fun and gets the neurones firing).

And on occasion, I'll take a time out and not write for a few days, a week or two, even a month. It can take time, to trust yourself that you won't lose the habit of writing, that you'll pick it up again.

The big thing to do on a break - write something else. Go to a new world, a new genre. Been focussing on your novel? Bang out a couple of short stories, or vice versa. Go do a writing course.

Taking regular breaks is the best thing for me to ensure that when I'm hard at work, what is coming out is fresh, new, interesting and worth reading.

And now - yawn - I think it's nap time!


Helen Lowe said...

This is all so true, Nicole--breaks and doing different stuff definitely refresh my muse, too. Plus 'manual' work (cooking, gardening etc) is a great refresher to the 'brain' work of writing.

Terri Garey said...

Great post, Nicole! You're absolutely right about the shower - I've had major plot breakthroughs in the shower! :)

I've also had some good ones while pulling weeds!

Kim Falconer said...


This is so insightful! I love your note on 'silence' and the shower! (Right Terri, me too!)

Oh Helen! Doing the 'little manual things' is another one!

Wonderful tips!