Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Replenishing the Creative Well through Rest

Writing well requires some concentration.  In my experience, I used to desire (definitely not needed) to write without any breaks or interruptions.  But writing for hours without any rest has shown itself to be unkind to the body and mind.  There have been many times I would skip meals and ignore the hunger pains in my belly just to not break my stream of "concentration."  I now believe that taking regular breaks is just as important as the writing itself.  It can actually improve the result. 

You may ask, why did I not allow myself breaks and work myself to irritability and exhaustion? The most encompassing answer I can give for that is fear.
  • Fear told me that if I had any breaks, I might lose my flow of ideas and the writing would suffer.
  • Fear told me that if I took a step away from my project and then came back, I would see what was wrong with it and might decide it wasn't good enough and throw it away. If I realized that it was flawed, I might not want to continue working on it, as opposed to if I had just written it all in one sitting.
There are many "mights" in these, which suggests that I was too focused on the future.  I cannot predict my future and know if I'll like a piece of writing once it's complete, but I can listen to my body in the present and cooperate when it's time to take a break.

To solve this problem, I downloaded a free software called Workrave (click this link to download it) that prompts the user to take a break every so often.  The default settings gave me a 30 second pause every 3 minutes.  I've adjusted to a 30 second pause every 10 minutes. 

According to the FAQ, if you're recovering from RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury), you will probably need more frequent pauses, such as every 2.5 to 3 minutes for about 25 seconds.  On the other hand, if you don't have problems using the computer, a 10 second pause every 10 minutes might be sufficient for you. There is also a longer break.  I have mine set for every 45 minutes.

So far this software has been working out great.  It can be difficult to remember to take a break on our own, but these popups make it easy to rest.

18 comments:

  1. Good reminders. I like how you identify Fear as a voice that controls you, but that you can quiet the voice and create, and rest.

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  2. I seem to have the opposite problem lately--a kind of ADD that can't focus for long without derailing. I suspect it's a variety of fear in this as well--I can't fail if I don't really try--or some such warped thinking.

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  3. This really spoke to me. I had those days where words tumbled out like flood water but then one day I blinked and they were gone. I noticed ideas can come in during showers or right before I fall asleep but then I woke up they disappeared. Like the idea of a software reminder. :)

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  4. Jade, great reminder. We all need to take breaks. Would you mind sharing the information on the software you're using?

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  5. Mary, Exactly. Quieting the fear is so challenging, but it is rewarding. Otherwise nothing would ever be created :)

    Laurel, The "If I don't try, I can't fail" belief still gets to me at times. When that happens, I set aside time to free-write in my journal for awhile (no expectations) and sometimes that makes things better and gives me the desire to start a short story or poem. Journaling is also good for coming up with ideas, I've found.

    Shopgirl, I can relate to this. It helps me to keep a small notebook or pen nearby and write down ideas regularly, although not to be too worried about forgetting things either. Sometimes they'll turn up or new ones will come. It's funny how they usually come when there's no pen or paper nearby!

    ab, You're welcome :)

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  6. You're right, it's so important to take breaks! I always try to remember to do so. The only time I don't is if I'm really caught in an idea which really demands me to keep writing.

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  7. Some excellent advice here! I am so glad I stopped by via Sandy Lawrence's blog. I love your presentation too.

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  8. Thank you for the link- I will check it out.

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  9. Thanks Jade. Sometimes I get so absorbed in my work that I forget to take breaks and when I finally get up I feel a bit 'wiggy' - not sure what that means but the word describes how I fell :). This is a great reminder...
    Andie

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  10. Juliet, That's how I do it, too...although lately I've been stopping when the software prompts me, even if there's an exciting idea. So far it hasn't ruined anything. :) :)

    Geraldine, Thanks and welcome to the blog!

    Summer Ross, Great! Thanks for following.

    Andie, I know exactly what you mean. It makes me feel disoriented. Glad you found this helpful.

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  11. What an interesting and good idea for a program!
    I'm the worst at taking breaks, heh...
    I guess it's good I'm writing one of my books by hand, otherwise everything might end up being overkill.

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  12. Melee, I've never thought of writing a book by hand before. It must feel very different from writing on the computer. Could be a good way to stop oneself from over-editing first drafts and from getting stuck.

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  13. At one time or another I've had the same fears, but thankfully I realized how beneficial breaks can be.

    This software sounds interesting. I'll have to check it out. Thanks for the tip!

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  14. This is a great idea. It is also nice to take a longer break after an hour or two even if it means just standing and stretching.

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  15. Thanks for sharing this!

    God Bless

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  16. You have an amazing blog. I used to have so much fear until I learned that it only exist in the mind. You should control your fear and not let it control you.

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  17. Thanks, everyone, for your kind & insightful comments. :)

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