“You have to learn how to use your energy and not squander it…The brain works for you even when you are at rest.” Doris Lessing
According to The Byrds (and before them, the Book of Ecclesiastes), “to everything there is a season and a time to every purpose, under heaven” — and when it comes to writing, one of those times is a time to rest. To stop writing and let your muse enjoy a coffee break and your fingers a respite from the pen or keyboard.
How do you know when you need a break?
When you feel like all you are doing is going round and round, figuratively speaking, but getting nowhere.
When you can’t think straight, which means you can’t write straight.
When you start second- and third-guessing every thought that comes out of your head.
And most importantly, when you realize there ain’t nothin’ coming out of your head but air!
We’ve all hit those moments (or hours or days) when we can’t shift our creativity out of neutral (or worse, park!) to drive so we can get to our destination. And while I understand that discipline is the key to achievement, sometimes we need to use that discipline to walk away, to take a hiatus, to accept the fact that we are stuck in the mud (so to speak) and the best thing we can do is let everything wait until it solidifies a bit.
Interestingly, I have found that when I am confronted by these shut-down moments, shortly after I walk away and start doing something — washing dishes, running the sweeper, taking a walk, or even do nothing but take a brief zero-task break to breathe — everything starts happening again. Ideas start flowing. Words start coming. The brain is functioning once again.
Plowing through isn’t always the answer. Sometimes, you have to step back and give everything a chance to settle.