Have you ever thought you just needed time off and then everything would be okay?
Your life would slow down and your 3 pages a day would easily get written? You just need time away from all of those daily drudges that suck up your spirit and your time?
This past summer (Is it past already???) I found myself writing in an empty office at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. The very kind receptionist offered me a spot with Internet and a table while I waited for my son’s meeting to end before we moved on to the next place on his agenda. I was a Mom that day, tripping around Alberta while he met presidents and vice-presidents at colleges and universities across the province, all connected to his day job.
This was supposed to be a holiday for me but I found myself working. Oh, I left my computer and my manuscript behind to simmer in the background of my home office but I took my iPad. To check email, I said to myself, but email begets contacts and contacts beget issues and issues beget replies and replies beget and beget and beget.
Writers need to write, I know, but sometimes they need a holiday. And they need to escape from the terrors of the clacking keyboard.
We people who sit typing in solitary spaces or crowded coffee houses need, every once in a while, to push the “Off” switch. We need to step away from the keyboard. Away from the periodic email notifications which every five minutes float up from the lower right of the screen in a cloudy, filmy insubstantial ephemera as though they won’t interrupt us.
But they do interrupt. And they take us out of our constructive creative moments as surely as the ring-ringing of the telephone when you’re in flagrante delicto under the sheets with your sweetie.
And we need to let our thoughts float free, driven wherever they might go by whatever brushing wind they find.
Letting go is hard. Deadlines whether self-imposed or pushed on us from outside stick themselves on our internal memo boards. And even if we step away, they don’t. Those responsibilities are still there.
Besides which, we get so interconnected with our work we’re laced up as tightly as our jogging shoes when we try to escape.
This happens to me and I’m sure you’ve experience it a time or two as well.
Research has shown that workers are more productive when they take periodic breaks. When we get up and get a glass of water and sit on the porch in the sun to drink it, our thoughts have a chance to relax, to lie on the couch, and to coalesce in imaginative new ways.
A few years ago my husband and I, pseudo do-it-yourselfers at best, decided to install crown molding in our large family room. We had a mitre saw, two brains instead of one, and lots of confidence.
It soon waned. Figuring out just how to measure and insert the wood into the saw so the angle would actually work once we got the piece up to the ceiling, well…you get the picture. It was hard. Actually darn near impossible.
The only way we could succeed was to figure out one piece, cut it, install it, and measure the next. MAYBE the next would work as well. After that we had to walk away for an hour or so. And when we came back, aha! The brain worked again. The ceiling took several days.
This, then, is how I approach all of my difficult work. Intense thinking and long, uninterrupted periods of focus, followed by time to ease off. I go for a walk. I put dinner in the crock pot, chop a few carrots, clean the bathrooms, anything physical that needs doing. When I come back, as often as not, I am Archimedes–“Eureka!”
Have you experienced like moments when the answer or a lovely new problem-solving thought occurred after a break? Consider leaving a comment to tell about it.