Deadlines vs Taking a Break

Sunday, September 27, 2015

This was “The Week of Deadlines.” Educational activities with photos. A sample chapter. A book outline. It made for some really long days.

I’ve learned this week how to tell when I need a break. The first sign came when I told my son that I didn’t appreciate his subtext. He’s sixteen so he shot me “a look” for that one.

The second sign came when I read an article on how not to be too wordy. Instead of just reading the examples, I found myself editing out additional unnecessary words.

But the biggest clue came when I tried to quickly paint my toe nails. I told my son I’d put lunch in the oven as soon as I finished drafting my toes. We decided he should deal with the oven.

So what do I do when I need a break but I have so much to get done? I take a break.

I know. It sounds counterintuitive, but I’ve learned that once I hit that wall, I need to stop. My progress has slowed to a crawl anyway, and if I keep pushing myself I’m going to do more harm than good.

My top three breaks?

Meal time. It isn’t that I’m food obsessed but skipping meals is a big mistake. Low blood sugar does not go hand-in-land with creativity. If it happens to be lunch and I’m home by myself, I listen to an audio book. It gives me something else to think about for a while. Dinner time is family time which always pulls me out of work mode.

Yoga class. Home workouts are too easy to skip as is gym time. Because of this, I signed up for a twice weekly yoga class. I was tempted to skip this week but I made myself go. It meant 90 minutes away from my desk filled with both exercise and deep breathing. I came back to my office focused and re-energized.

Knitting or crochet. Doing something creative, and non-writing related, recharges my batteries. Maybe it’s that I see results. Maybe it’s because it’s meditative. I’m not sure, but it does the trick. I come out of my craft time with writing related solutions ready to go.

Even if you have a deadline or three to meet, be sure to get up and get away from the computer every now and then. Set a timer in another room if that’s what it takes to make you leave your desk. But get up. Don’t skip meals. Move around. You’ll see the difference when you sit back down to write.


Sue is the instructor for our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins on November 9, 2015.


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