I do it in quick bursts (30 or 40 minutes is usually enough) then I need a break, partly to recover emotionally from the fight or chase or argument I’ve just written, partly to get up from the chair and keyboard to give my body a change of posture, and partly to give my brain time to consider solutions to the questions and problems that particular burst of writing has thrown up.
So on the rare and wonderful days when I have all day to write, I don’t spend all day writing. I do a variety of things to take a break, at least once an hour. And over the years, I’ve discovered things which REALLY don’t work as breaks from writing:
Logging on to my email or twitter or facebook or even lovely blogs like this, because I get involved in conversations then feel rude if I break them off to get back to writing, and anyway it doesn’t give me a break from the screen and keyboard.
Reading a novel, because if the novel is any good, 10 minutes isn’t enough, and I risk getting sucked into that world, forgetting the time, forgetting the book I’m trying to write…
Doing a bit of housework, which usually annoys me more than it relaxes or inspires me, so I do as little housework as possible (this is a life rule, not just a writing day one!)
So this month, I made a new resolution (why make them in January? October can be a new start too) and I’m trying to find other things to give me a quick mental and physical break, then send me back into the story refreshed and possibly even inspired. And so far, these have worked:
Stitching or sewing something. I’ve dug out a cushion cover I started to design decades ago, and now I’m working on it in very small sections. Working with wool is so different from working with words, that it seems like the perfect break.
Baking bread or cooking. It’s not housework, but it still makes me feel domestically useful, and kneading bread is particularly satisfying.
Going for a run. This is the best way to clear my head, and to deal with the dangers of a sitting down job. But it only works once a day, and only when I can be bothered!
Sight reading a few of my daughter’s scales / exercises / pieces on the piano. (Not particularly well, but with a bit of verve!)
I’m sure if did all of these (run, bake, sew, play music, read poetry…) in one day, I’d probably not write any words of my own at all. But having all of those options certainly beats hanging socks between chapters…
Lari Don is the award-winning author of 22 books for all ages, including a teen thriller, fantasy novels for 8 – 12s, picture books, retellings of traditional tales and novellas for reluctant readers.