Stop and take a break! Everyone needs one sometimes, frequently even. We need big and little breaks. This is about little breaks. “micro breaks”
Breaks article at 99U
One of the things they very specifically call out to not do, is make your break like your work. I think this applies especially to writing. Taking a break from writing to do a blog post? Not actually a break. Taking a break from editing to go and do social media promotion? Not a break.
At my day job I try to take actual breaks in the am and pm and when I’m stuck. I go for a walk, a few blocks, about 10 minutes. It is awesome for steps on my fitbit. But is is also awesome for getting into the right head space. I know that people sometimes get the side eye for this, especially when things are busy. There can be pressure to work through lunch (which the article talks about specifically too) or skip breaks. But taking them makes such an enormous difference in the quality of my work. I’m not making widgets, it isn’t just tab a into slot b, but even that needs breaks. To come up with creative solutions to problems (which is my job) requires a lot of effort. A walk makes a huge difference, I put on headphones and listen to a podcast and try to stop thinking about work. I may look at my phone too much during my breaks and I’m going to try to cut back on that a bit again.
I find myself running into the same thing with writing. I’ll come home from work and try to get a little writing done but my brain is still stuck, I had a short walk home, but I haven’t really taken a solid break. I know I always do better if I stop and make dinner first, like actual cooking seems to help. Clears my head, creates space for my brain to shift gears.
On the weekends where I write the most I try to actively build in get out of the house breaks. A walk to the coffee shop, a walk to get groceries, a walk along the river. I’ve got lots of parks and things nearby. I need to take even more advantage of them than I do. Just stuff my phone with my podcasts in my pocket, and head out the door.
I feel like I can still sometimes think about writing (and I’ve had to quite often stop the walk to take some notes on my phone) but I don’t always do that, sometimes I try to shift out of that mode entirely. When I’m having a writing problem I try to specifically not listen to fiction podcasts or audiobooks but instead trying for something else, usually science because I love science. It helps to clear my brain so that the problem can work away at the back of my brain.
Future me: Take a break! Get off the computer, get off the phone, get away from screens, don’t even pick up a book. Take a short 5-10 minute break. Your work will thank you.