Update: Bear responded on Twitter that she takes breaks all the time.
I’m not like them. Based on an informal survey of professional authors I’ve been conducting, most aren’t like them. Most who would disclose their beliefs believe in significant periods of recharge, whether it’s a day or weekend off, or a few weeks or months after finishing a novel. More authors wouldn’t disclose or couldn’t come close to pinning down their processes.
Vacations don’t help me very much. In recent years I’ve kept data on myself around when I take breaks from composition and editing, and there’s very little correlation between a break and output at resumption or upon starting something new. While my recent novel-writing campaign started amazingly, it was one of seven projects I took significant breaks between in a three-month period, and was one of only two that seemed to jump out of the gate. The others ran on will power and routine until I could build up the steam.
Perhaps more importantly, I notice I don’t feel mentally refreshed upon returning to work. Most recently I was derailed from my novel by bronchitis, and then had to leave home for travel. As awful as bronchitis was, I was relieved to stop work because of anxiety about whether I was executing the novel correctly. After weeks off, I resumed yesterday and felt absolutely as incapable of getting it right as I did before. This morning I awoke feeling like I had nothing left inside of me, which is disturbing for a living being to believe.
It wasn’t until I helped a mother in a check-out line that the feeling changed. A joke fell out of me, and she laughed, and seemed a little relieved despite the child kicking her hip. It was as though giving someone that little relief temporarily validated me, and I felt like if I had a keyboard right then, the clouds would part.
This isn’t a whining session. It’s an invitation to you, friends, fellow readers and writers.
What do you do to recharge?
We know that it’s something taxing, partially on the body and partially on the mind. It’s something that everyone needs to pause from, and walk away from for the day. It may be that everyone has a different recharge cycle, or a different set of recharge cycles – surely some full-timers take the occasional afternoon off while also taking periodic vacations, while others are more idiosyncratic. That leads us to question what we do in those periods that restores us.
I’ve tried both avoiding reading anything and reading a great deal, and within the latter, reading narrowly and broadly. None of the above seems to change things. Do you read to recharge? If so, what? Is it research? Is your reading compartmentalized?
Many of my breaks have been around my home. If you know my health, then you can figure that I don’t travel often. Yet when I do travel, returning home doesn’t seem to have changed anything, whether I departed for family emergencies or to hang out with friends. Do breaks work on you? What is it about them?
There are authors who juggle 8- and 12-hour jobs and write in excavated free time. There are authors who are full time parents and still hit the keyboard every day of the week. Is there a shorter recharge cycle there? Do the Kings and Bears of the world recharge primarily in shorter runs, in breaks to jog or have dinner with family? If so, how do those refresh cycles operate?