Step Away from Writing and Take a Break

Posted June 13, 2013 by Amanda Shofner in Writing / 6 Comments

Ever had one of those days where you feel like you’re doing everything wrong and you suck at life?

They’re awful.

When it comes to writing, these moods get me nowhere. Rather than writing, I’ll sit at my computer checking my email, interacting on social media, and poking around my blogs. And thinking about how much I suck, because really Amanda, how difficult is it to write a few hundred words and get shit done?

Days like these aren’t productive. No matter how many times I force myself off social media, five minutes later I’m checking to see if anyone has responded to me. (Please? ANYTHING?)

Having one of these days recently made me realize something important: I have to learn when to take a break. Do something unrelated to my writing.

When you feel like you’re doing everything wrong and everyone is doing it right and why can’t I just be awesome like them?, that mood goes beyond the lack of motivation. It’s a physical inability to perform the activity.

Sometimes you have to walk away. Give up for a day or an evening or a few hours. Yes. GIVE. UP. Stop thinking about it. Spend an evening reading or pour yourself an alcoholic beverage. (Grape vodka, anyone?)

Go for a walk. Go for a run. Go for a fifteen mile bike ride.

Anything to disconnect yourself from feeling like you can’t do anything right.

Because that feeling?

It lies.

Sometimes you have to do nothing to do something. Sometimes you need that mental vacation to reorient yourself and kick that lying bastard of a feeling out the door.

And yeah, you’ll still have your deadline to meet. But if you’re not getting your work done anyway, why are you wasting your time being frustrated? Frustration only breeds more frustration.

Take back your time. Take back your happiness. Take a break.

And then, when you tackle your work the next day, tackle it with gusto. Because you can do it right. And you can be as awesome as everyone else “doing it right.”

How do you fight the feeling of not being able to do it right?

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6 responses to “Step Away from Writing and Take a Break

  1. Such a great post! I get caught up in that same check email, check social media, check email routine on certain days as well. I think the tips you give here–just step away from the computer–are great. Even if stepping away means cleaning the house (I’m just going to have to do it later) or playing with my dogs. Or working on a fun project that also needs to get done but isn’t as high priority at the other ones. Just for a chance to get a break.

    • Even something as simple as taking a shower can be enough to reorient me. Especially if it’s a writer’s block because, well, I am the idea bleeder, after all.

      When I was in grad school, I often switched between the papers and activities I had to do. I’d get stuck, go do something else, then come back later. It actually increased my productivity. Never did have to pull an all nighter.

  2. My favorite part of what you said –> “Sometimes you have to do nothing to do something.” Stepping away is so hard to do, but it does usually work. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Grad school: where I learned that doing nothing is sometimes the best solution. 😉

      I have tendency to get so wrapped up in whatever I’m doing that I actually make no progress. Stepping away (and I agree, it’s really hard to do) is often the best way to reorient myself–even if I have to drag myself away to do it.

  3. Great post. And you’re right- stepping away is key. I remember in my software developer days when I’d be stuck with a bug or figuring out a piece of code and it had been hours..An answer or “aha” moment would come to me when I walked away and focussed on something else instead of forcing a solution.

    Thanks for the reminder!

    • Absolutely. Attempting to force something rarely works well. And sometimes something as simple as a shower or a short walk is enough to get yourself going again. I came up with my business name on a walk. 🙂

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