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Most of us have been taught that if we want to be successful, we need to work hard and constantly push ourselves. And while this mindset has certainly gotten a lot of people to success, however a growing number of experts are now advocating for a different kind of success, one that's based on taking more breaks and being less productive.
The idea behind this new theory is that success is just a state of being, not an activity. You don't just "have" to do something, you are doing something. And what's more, this state of being is more valuable than anything you might otherwise be doing. In the same way that some people might spend their whole day meditating, some people might spend their whole day shopping. In other words, success is a choice.
In this article I want to talk about being away from writing, types of breaks, why is it important and what to do when you come back.
If you've ever tried to push yourself to write everyday, then you may know that writing is a process that requires a lot of time, energy, and focus. You need to find a good space to write, and you need to block other distractions out so you can focus.
But is this process of continuous writing the most productive way to write? Probably not. In fact, humans' brains naturally resist being continuously active. Our brains prefer to focus on one thing at a time. This is why we have mental blocks where we can't write for hours straight. Our brains need breaks.
If you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. Imagine you're constantly writing, and you're not taking breaks to let your brain rest and process what it's just written. Eventually your brain will start to rebel, and you'll start to experience mental blocks. The best way around this is to find a writing time that works for your schedule, and to take breaks in between.
So how long does a break need to be? That depends on you. Five minutes of refreshing your mind before writing again, or an hour of checking out social media, or even a full day that is spent doing other, unrelated things. The important thing is that you're not doing the same thing over and over, and you're not forcing yourself to write.
What about longer term breaks? What if you need a month off to do something else entirely? Well, that's awesome! But what about your readers? They need a continuous stream of interesting things to read, right?
The truth is that you're not the only thing that readers need. They need interesting things to read, too, and just as you need time to recharge your batteries, so do they. You can't write every day, nor should you try to. And if you take breaks that are too long, you're just burning yourself out, and this will show up in your writing. But if you space out your breaks appropriately, you can recharge completely and still write tons of content, just by putting in the time.
Now that we've talked about why you need to take breaks, the next step is figuring out exactly when you need to take breaks.
The answer is that it depends. On some days, five minute breaks will refresh you and give you the energy to tackle another task. Other days, an hour break will do the trick. There's no real right answer to this question, just know that every individual is different.
The other thing to keep in mind is that it's okay if you don't do a perfect break. In fact, it can even be helpful to not refresh your mental state all the time.
For example, some days you might write for four hours straight, with only 10 minute breaks in between. On other days, you might write for 4.5 hours straight, with 15 minute breaks every hour. Both of these styles of writing are great, and it's okay if one suits you more than the other.
Here are some techniques to consider as you take breaks:
Don't think about writing. You should never, ever think about writing when you're taking a break. If you start to daydream about characters, story ideas, or even just words that you want to use in your writing, then you need to stop. Daydreaming is fine, but as soon as you start to write, you start to lose.
Now, there are definitely days where you're going to want to spend hours writing. Some days, you might spend all day writing. On other days, you might spend most of the day doing other things. Either way, your readers are just as interested in what you have to say, no matter what your writing schedule is.
So when you're taking breaks, do something else. Read a book, watch a movie, play a video game, doodle, write a letter to a friend, or go for a walk.
You might be wondering about what to do when you come back from a longer break. After all, if you're not going to write, does it even matter if you take a break or not?
The truth is that it does matter. Taking time off helps your brain refocus, and it also gives you a chance to let your ideas coalesce before you return to work. If you go right back into it without any time off, you're probably going to get mental blocks. This isn't because you're trying to be difficult, it's just what happens when your brain is constantly overworked.
However, this doesn't mean that you should write day in and day out. By no means should you try to write as much as you did before, or as much as you will again after a break. Just because you took a month off to do something else, that doesn't mean you should immediately try to write fifty pages. Instead, take the time to get reintroduced to your story, and return to writing with a new perspective.
And of course, don't burn out. It's okay to take breaks, especially if you're struggling to get your head around a problem, but you shouldn't have to take months off of writing if you need a rest.
Taking breaks is a good thing. It can make you a more rounded person, it can help you live life, and it can even make you a better writer. Just make sure you know when to take breaks, and make sure you come back without burning out.