Take a break without guilt.

Take a break without guilt

Looking after our mental health is something we rarely think about as writers. I tend to spend every waking minute thinking about multiple WiPs, and in doing so, I forget to give myself time away from the page.

After I make my wife her morning coffee, and we make sure our son is awake and ready for school, I start thinking about writing.

In my mind, I revisit the words from yesterday and evaluate the direction the plot is heading. And as I set up for work, I think about where I will carve out an hour or two to carry on with my story.

This started out as a hobby to manage my stress levels and give me an escape from the real world. And it worked like a charm.

Writing is good for the soul

Every time I put pen to paper and the words left my mind, I felt the weight of the world ease off. I could breathe again. And as August–Lost took shape, I found an inner peace that I’d never experienced before.

Writing for my sanity
Writing for my sanity

As my writing journey progressed, I found myself feeling relaxed and present in the moment.

Every time I came home from work, I was able to engage with my family and have fun. The nagging voice in the back of my mind was silenced, and I was able to laugh and joke and enjoy the company of my family again.

And when my boy went to bed, and my better half went to read or watch her T.V shows, I took my seat and fired up the laptop.

Thanks to writing, we were all content with our quality family time, and were happy to break off and spend an hour or two in our own company.

Needing a change

Before I took to writing, I was moody, quick-tempered, distracted by difficult situations I faced in work, and above all, I was always tired. I would ponder on dark thoughts every night and all through the weekends.

I felt like I became a burden at home, and when I’d retreat to my laptop, it was for mindless gaming; almost ignoring my family completely.

Needless to say, they resented the sound of the thing powering up. But now, when the fans spool up and the lights glow, it’s at the end of the day of a great day, and only when we are all ready for a bit of individual quiet time.

These days, when I’m hammering away at the keyboard, my son or wife might ask “how’s the book coming along?” which always makes me smile.

Smile when you're winning
Smile when you’re winning

Now, as much as enjoy writing and spending time with my two favourite people, there are times when I need to do something else. And this is something I know all writers struggle with.

Walking away for clarity

I find that if I don’t blow off some steam, I begin to fixate on the plots, characters, and scenes, and that becomes problematic (I tend to fixate dial everything up to eleven).

Everything can be working really well within the pages, but if I don’t walk away from time to time, I begin to question myself. And soon, imposter syndrome creeps in.

With all my time dedicated to my family, my job, my writing, and sleeping, I didn’t really do anything else.

Well, that’s not true. I also spend a bit of time engaging on social media within a great writing community. But aside from that, I didn’t do much.

I used to be a bit of a drinker. I’d meet with friends, hit the town, and waste the following day nursing a hangover. But as I grew older, my hangovers felt as bad as recovering from minor surgery.

Needless to say, I lost the taste for it.

Anyway, as much as I love writing, there are plenty of times when I just need to get away from it.

Time to yourself
Time to yourself

There’s no shame in saying this, and you shouldn’t feel any guilt if you have similar thoughts.

It’s healthy to give your inner author a few days off. After all, if you have to force yourself to sit and write, or if it becomes a chore, then you will lose your love for it, and that will bleed into the words.

Too much of a good thing, I suppose.

Looking after yourself

The older I get, the more I notice the aches and pains when I’ve been sitting for too long.

There’s a reason why health experts talk about staying active and moving about. And with that in mind, I try to get at least one hour of exercise a day (though my waistline will contradict this).

I will often walk my spotty little friend to give him a good run out. I’ll also get some active stretching when I’m working from home. And when I’m feeling especially energetic, I’ll drag myself to the gym.

Not my Dal. But you get the idea
Not my Dal. But you get the idea

But that is just maintenance. What I really love to do is get out on the mountain bike.

I won’t lie… I’m not great on it. And I am aware that I look like something from a comic strip when I’m barrelling down a Welsh hillside. But the smile on my face will also tell you that I don’t care what I look like.

When I’m riding down a trail, or on those rare moments when I lift off and catch some air, I’m free.

It feels great to get the blood pumping.

If you find yourself stuck with a particular plot, go out and get the lungs open to clear your head.

Forget about narrative or character development, and forget about the plot. Leave it all behind for an hour or two.

Take a bit of time for yourself.

Everyone is talking about mental health and how we are living with stress. And it’s important that we acknowledge the stress we place on ourselves.

We should be looking for ways to improve mental health, but it goes hand in hand with our physical wellbeing.

Now is the time to reclaim your body and give it what it needs.

The great outdoors
The great outdoors

Go for a walk, a run, a hike. Go to the gym if you feel ready for it, or dust off the bike and use some pedal power.

Your writing will thank you for it.

When I return from a few hours of downhill biking, my words flow better (at least I think they do).

I don’t know if it’s the oxygenated blood pumping through my veins, or if it’s the time away from the whiteness of the page. But I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

I’m just grateful for the boost it gives me when my writing dries up.

Our minds are the tools we use to write. But we neglect bodies at our peril.

Good luck.

2 thoughts on “Take a break without guilt.

  1. I am so envious of you that you get to escape from the real world through the act of writing. For me, it feels just like work. The only reason I do it is because I enjoy the feeling of having written. Anyway, wishing you all the best on your journey!

    1. The end justifies the means- I can relate. When I go away for months at a time with work, it’s horrible. But the feeling when I return home is indescribable.
      I hope the feeling of finishing overlaps into the writing experience for you. And one day, the journey is just as exciting as the destination.
      Take care Stu.

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