Starting NaNoWriMo has made me realize something. I write nearly every day, but I don’t write every single day. Some days I write fiction (almost every day), and other days I work on nonfiction/freelance writing. Mixing up my projects helps keep me fresh. But there’s nothing quite like taking a day off. No writing for a 24-hour period.
The most important thing I can say is: choose your days off wisely, so they benefit you instead of keeping you from reaching your writing goals.
There are benefits and drawbacks to taking a day off from writing. I am so keenly aware of the drawbacks that I try to take only 2-3 days off per month, depending on what projects I’m working on and whether I’m more interested in my projects than having a life.
I believe in good news first, so I’ll start with the benefits:
Recharge creativity – Giving your creative mind a rest from time to time will help you keep your enthusiasm for a project. This is especially important when we think we don’t have time to take a day off. And maybe that’s true, especially if you’re working on several projects. This month I have a copywriting class, my NaNoWriMo novel, and those never ending query letters for freelance work. I have deadlines, but I need a day off.
Physically rest – Your fingers get sore from typing and your eyes need a break from staring at the string of words appearing behind the cursor. A day off gives your body a chance to recover.
Explore, have new experiences, and gather new ideas – Whether you visit the zoo or just read something interesting, new experiences spark creativity. This will make a difference when you go back to your project. Maybe during your adventure, your subconscious discovered the perfect plot point.
And the drawbacks:
A day off likes to turn into days off – You take one day off with no ill effects. You didn’t miss writing all that much, and you are tired, plus you’ve been working hard, so you take the next day off as well. This could, potentially, continue for years. Be careful!
Deadlines – I hate deadlines, but they’re a fact of life for writers. Obviously it’s best not to choose to take a day off when you have a project due. If you must, due to an emergency, don’t just blow your deadline. Call your editor and explain. Maybe he or she can work something out. After all, editors are people too.
Your inner editor wakes up – If I write a lot in a short period of time, my inner editor gets bored and wanders off because I’m clearly putting far too many words on the page to pay attention to his antics. My inner editor is named Teegan and his motto is “don’t bother.” So trust me when I say the inner editor loves it when you take days off. He will tell you not to go back to work because your writing isn’t any good anyway. I say get back to writing ASAP because that’s a slap to your inner editor’s face.
We’re not machines – we’re writers. We should never feel guilty about taking a day off. But we do need to be careful to prevent our day off from taking us from being a working writer to a wanna be writer who sits around saying “I’ll get back to that novel some day.”