11 Nov 2014

Take A Break If You Want To Create

Holidays are usually the highlight of my year.  That’s not to suggest my life in between holidays is anything less than interesting, fun and challenging (in a good way!), but holidays are awesome.

No matter what you can afford in terms of time or money, holidays – breaks from “normality” – are incredibly important.  Even just the act of getting on a train or plane and going anywhere is like a Red Bull for my creative juices!  Airports instantly get me thinking about the myriad adventures they provide a doorway to and the gargantuan numbers of lives and stories and dramas that pass through them constantly.  If I lived nearer an airport then I’d definitely spend several hours there on a regular basis, just for stimulation and inspiration.  People Watching Central.

Holidays are often a time to see and try new things.  It’s good for our brains to be hustled out of the ruts they get set into with our regular routines.  Even when holidays aren’t possible, for whatever reason, we can still challenge ourselves in the same way – eat something different, walk a different route to work or for pleasure, visit somewhere you’ve never been or wouldn’t usually think to go, take a bus to a different part of your town/city or read a book in a genre you wouldn’t usually go for.

A break doesn’t have to be an expensive two-week holiday.  One week, a long weekend, a day or even just a couple of hours getting away from it all, can be effective.  Frankly even a half-hour walk in the woods can be more refreshing than some holidays.

God knows how important it is for us to take a break!  The Sabbath wasn’t created primarily as a religious ritual, but as a time to rest from our work and reconnect relationally with God, our families and ourselves.  In both Christianity and Judaism the Sabbath is just one day though, so how did we end up with the two-day weekend that we accept as normality?  Apparently it was due to restrictions on weekly working hours in the US in the twentieth century, but patterned over Saturday and Sunday in order to enable both Christian and Jewish workers to honour their Sabbaths.  Result!  One of those few times when bending over backwards to accommodate everybody has a universally positive outcome. 

Any break helps you to see the wood for the trees – i.e. the bigger picture rather than the smaller details.  For me, holidays provide the distance from everyday concerns and routines, helping me process what’s been happening recently, as well as consider what I want to do and prioritise in the coming weeks/months.  When I get back from holidays I’m also always challenged to ask “why do I have so much stuff?!”  I take a fraction of what I own when I go away for a week or two, so why do I need all that other paraphernalia?  Holidays often provide the impetus for a good clearout in my house. 

On holiday you can take time to top-up your creative resources, like I did recently with reading.  Taking a "holiday" from writing is also particularly essential when you get to the editing stage.  I know my story so intimately that I can easily overlook all sorts of elements and information and take for granted that the reader understands what’s going on, when they might not.  Getting distance and detachment from the work is imperative for editing it as effectively as possible.  It enables me to spot where I haven’t kept the thread of something running properly or see which sentences are clunky.  Putting a finished draft aside for a week, a month or more can help produce a much better manuscript in the long run.

I struggle with this!  I’m completely addicted to writing.  Days when I write, I’m happy.  Days when I don’t, I’m grumpy and tetchy.  Not good for either me or my family.  Obviously I can work on other projects, but at the moment my mind is either constantly working through what needs tweaking in CAF book 1 or plotting for books 2 and 3!  I just can’t stop.  And I don’t want to.  I do manage to force myself to leave it alone for a few days (the max I can go cold turkey on it) and even that small break is better than nothing.  Because of that beta-readers are SO important in order for me to get an alternative, unbiased and less emotionally engaged viewpoint on my writing.

CAF has been with three beta-readers for the last two weeks and their feedback has been coming in 🙂  More on that next week…


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