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A day off for writers: what are the benefits?

I write every day. For hours, I sit at my computer, opening pages for work in progress or planning my next book. If I can’t include writing in my day, I can become discouraged and even anxious. Writing is more than my chosen occupation, it is my passion.

But every writer needs a break from time to time, and I took a day off last week. Some friends of mine were going on a cooks tour. I love cooking so I signed up for the tour and it was wonderful.

Famous writers know when they need a break. Neal Justin writes about Garrison Keillor’s plans in a Minneapolis “Star-Tribune” article, “Keillor is taking a break from his weekly column.” After writing his column for five years in a row, Keillor takes a break to finish a play and start a novel. No information was available on whether or not Keillor would return to his column.

According to an article on the Writinghood website, “Sometimes a writer has to take a break,” we must take time to avoid burnout. But some writers fear taking a break because they think they may lose momentum, the article notes. “The big fear here is that a one-day hiatus will lead to a two-day hiatus, which could eventually lead to a hiatus of a week or a month or forever.”

The type of rest you take is important. I chose a day break, but my writer’s mind was alert and the break had significant benefits. First, I got a taste of fall in Minnesota. The hills were a riot of color, a collage of pink maples, golden birches, and red oaks. The changing colors were more than impressive; they fed my soul.

Writers must be good listeners and I listened carefully to the conversation on the bus and at lunch. One person, originally from New York State, said that people did not understand his jargon and used the word “titch” as an example. Originally from Long Island, New York, he didn’t understand “titch” either. As I listened to the conversation, I filed new and forgotten words in my mind.

During the trip I came up with new writing ideas. Some women spoke about the difficulties of coping with children’s schedules. Others spoke about the poor quality of meat and products in local markets. And others spoke about volunteering and how it appears to be declining. Each of these topics could be an article or a key point in a book.

Taking a day off from writing revived my energy. Social interaction, seeing new things, smelling new smells, like in the spice store, got my creativity flowing. If you haven’t had a writing break in a while, I urge you to do so. Taking care of your physical and mental health is as important as taking care of your creativity. So I’m going to “play nonsense” more often. Taking a day off helped me get back to work.

copyright 2010 by Harriet Hodgson

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