17 September 2010

Take A Break

Normally, my best motivational advice would be “Just keep swimming”, but today I thought I’d go for a more counterintuitive tip: “Just give yourself a break, already.”

When working with a manuscript – whether it is the Great American Novel, a children’s book about sea lions or, Digression forbid, a master’s thesis about one of the world’s most depressive and persistent conflicts – it frequently happens that we end up taking ourselves and our work too seriously. We work up nerves and expectations, and all of a sudden, your manuscript is the most important thing in human history. Unless you get every sentence absolutely perfect, there is a chance the world as we know it will come to an end.

Relax. It’s not the end of the world.

In fact, it might not even be a sign that the apocalypse is near.

The ideal writer needs virtually no sleep
 The thing is, we (as in human beings – if there are any giraffes reading this, I strongly suggest you look away for the rest of this sentence, since you only need two hours of sleep each night to stay beautiful) need sleep. We need to eat. We need to smile, to laugh, to exercise, to breathe (shocker), to sing or whistle every now and then, and we need breaks.

Your manuscript won’t go anywhere if you take fifteen minutes off to go for a quick walk.

A weekend off can do more for your productivity than two weeks of diligent work.

One of the best things I ever do for my academic papers (even the ones on a deadline) is to go to bed, and then look at them with rested eyes in the morning. I don’t know if there is such a thing as a “paper fairy”, but she sure seems to visit during the night. She doesn’t take a tooth from under my pillow, and she doesn’t leave a coin. She does take away some of my destructive self-criticism, however, and she often leaves a paper that seems much better than it did the previous night.

Did you know that studies show that 413% of writers are cursed by (light to medium) panic attacks over “terrible” manuscripts when in reality they only need a nap? Did you know that 0.000017% of all writers will eventually eat the paper they write on because they keep forgetting dinner? Did you know that 3 out of 17 books are rejected by publishers because they are stained by coffee since the writer forgot to take a real break and instead brought the coffee back to her work where she accidentally spilled the coffee all over the printed manuscript? Did you know that all the above figures (except the giraffe one) were made up by me in an attempt to get your attention, but that they nevertheless serve to illustrate a point?

Take a break. It’ll do wonders for you.


CA Heaven said...

Good idea. I'll take a break in half an hour. Probably, I'll get cake too, as usual on Fridays >:)

Cold As Heaven

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Hey, I never forget to eat!

nonamedufus said...

Good advice. So let's see you took a break from writing your blog, to come over and write here? Yeah, okay. I guess a change is as good as a rest, eh?

The Burrow said...

I never lose kilos by writing. Inexplicably, they always find me during the process. Maybe I should switch to unbleached paper.

Mary@GigglesandGuns said...

Every Saturday during the college football season -- break and scream, brings oxygen into places that need it most. Also, brings great character quirks and conversations bits to the file.
Time walking alone or with grandkids is very relaxing and rejuvenating.

Jules said...

Nice advice, been thinking about a break :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Cruella Collett said...

CAH - Friday is cake day at work, eh? I like traditions like that. I may have to get a job soon so that I can work that into the schedule...

Alex - excellent! I suppose you don't wolf down paper either, then!

Noname - actually, I took a break from writing my thesis to come both there and here and write this (and that). But I should take an actual break soon - I need some fresh air (Did you know that 4 out of 93 authors never draw a single breath of air while they write?)

Tina (I think) - yes, the paper quality definitely matter. Though I don't think a paper based diet is recommended for weight loss anyway. Too many carbs ;)

Mary - those sounds like excellent breaks! Maybe I need to go to a game...

Jules - good for you! How can we take care of our manuscripts if we can't take care of ourselves?

Amber T. Smith said...

Excellent advice, Mari! But what about when you need to take a break from taking a break? 4 out of every 66 writers aren't actually writers, you know - they're writers-in-waiting.


Hart Johnson said...

Mari, I think you should take up a career as a statistician. These facts of yours made me fall over, which definitely provided a much needed break from my computer, and any stats that can accomplish what they are trying to emphasize are right up there with magic wands in my opinion.

Now I want to be a giraffe.

Deb and Barbara said...

An excellent point it is! I agree 716%. Rest is best for teh over-taxed creative brain.

Belle Wong said...

Great advice (especially since I desperately need a nap already and it's just past noon here!). The coffee stained ms statistic sounded realistic to me :)

Arlee Bird said...

You have apocalypse on the brain today-- maybe you need to take a nap.

I take a nap almost every afternoon. When I wake up it always takes me awhile to figure out where and who I am and the meaning of life. But, yes, a respite from work helps reinvigorate the mind even if it takes a few minutes.

Your made up statistics are probably as accurate as what I often expect are made up, or manipulated, statistics in the media. If it sounds good, then go for it. I forget everything after my nap anyway.

Tossing It Out

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I like the idea of a paper fairy! Can she visit my house?

ViolaNut said...

I must be part giraffe, that's close to my sleep-count. :-P You are, however and as usual, quite right about breaks. I need a break from the break right now though. ;-)

Cruella Collett said...

Tara - actually, I thought it was the other way around - 66 out of every 4 writers... But yeah... Taking a break from taking a break is what I am struggling with at the moment.... I have nothing for you in that department, I'm afraid..

Tami - tee hee, if they'll accept numbers like these, I'll happily take up that career. In the meantime I'll settle for ergonometricomedian ;)

B - only 716%? I may have to work on my convincability...

Belle - all naps are pre-approved by this digressionary motivator. Go for it! (And who knows, the coffe stained one might be true...)

Lee - purly coincidental, I assure you. There is only a 9.42% chance that my apoly..apocl...apsllfhjf... world ending brain functionality has to do with lack of zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.....

Elizabeth - yes! Actually, I suspect the paper fairy already visited you, several times :)

Unknown said...

All I needed was a nap!? You mean I drove into my neighbour's car for nothing!? Maybe I need more coffee.

Oh, and a question I forgot to ask on your other blog. What did the title say?