Making Breaks Work for You

Eye strain, headaches, jittery legs, numbness, tiredness, lack of concentration, writer’s block—these are the breaks of writing for long stretches of time. What’s the patented cure for these symptoms? Take a break.

The prospect of continuing to write after these symptoms appear carries the appeal of being in the zone, writing as efficiently as possible if only for a while longer. But how much longer and how efficient would your writing be?

Everyone has their personal amount of time they can work in a single clip. It can be four hours on either side of a lunch break at an office. It can be under an hour for homework in your most hated subject.

When it comes to writing, my single clips usually run 2-2½ hours. My breaks can last between 10 to 30 minutes.

It’s important to refresh yourself to maintain your proficiency and sanity throughout a day’s work. Here are a few steps I take to center myself when writing.

  1. Step away from the screen: Even though my screen’s been set to reduce blue light and the brightness is optimal, it still hurts after long enough. With a flat surface so close to your face, it’s best to give your eyes some variety and stare out a window for at least ten minutes. Viewing objects at different distances reorients your eyes.
  2. Don’t pick up the phone: Your phone may be the gateway to the world but you’re creating your own world on the page. Phones are the biggest time waster with billions of useless things that won’t help you get anything done.
  3. Avoid unending pastimes: There’s no limit to how long you can listen to music or watch Netflix or YouTube. One more song or show or video can snowball into hours of time gone by.
  4. Refresh your body: Your legs are bouncing. They need to expend energy. Go on a walk or hop on the treadmill. Think over the difficulties of the story and what has you stumped. Build up eustress and get back to work with a clear mind.
  5. Stretch your back out: You’ve been sitting for hours on end as you will for the rest of your working life. Make sure your back doesn’t give out on you.
  6. Shower: You’re covered in concentration sweat. Take a relaxing shower.
  7. Food and drink: Your body needs calories to burn and water to function. Stay away from the junk food and caffeine.
  8. Get your life stuff done: We all have things we’re putting off. Clean up your workspace and give yourself some elbowroom. Wash clothes. Do dishes. Clear your mind from all the checklist of extra work you have to do around the house.
  9. Cook: My favorite use of a break. It’s creative, productive, and a money saver. It also gives you something useful to write about. Everyone eats. Write about delicious foods and you’ll have the reader salivating with engagement.
  10. Get re-inspired: Read the book or study the news story that inspired the story you’re writing. Gather more aspects and ways to view the theme of your story.

Invest in your well-being. Don’t push yourself to work another half hour to the detriment of your next hour of work.

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