There are different breaks for a writer, different causes, different outcomes and different ways of thinking about it all – each a blessing or a curse.
There’s an ordinary break, which is simply time off to do something else. This kind is good and healthy and fun. It is nice and it keeps you in the real world.
For a lot of writers, this kind of break is actually rare. In my case, I tend to bring my thoughts along, then I end up getting lost on streets I should know and following strangers believing them to be my husband. In other words, I’m still in the plot and on another planet.
The next up is what I call a “staring at the wall” kind of break, where issues get sorted out, stuff to do with plot, characterization, twists and turns, rationalization and logistics, especially after a writer has managed to paint themselves into a corner.
This counts as a break if it drags you away from the computer where you might otherwise get distracted with things not associated with writing. However, it also involves thinking exclusively on the plot problem and this will extend for as long as it must in order for the issue or issues to be resolved.
Of course, if you don’t leave your computer, it will end up a real break because you’ll find yourself surfing the net, playing games, etc., and not thinking on the plot problem at all.
This kind of break (focusing on the problem) might last as little as half a day or as long as some months. You cannot do anything else in this time period. You cannot “fill in the time” with anything that takes your mind from it – that means no reading, no blogging, no surfing the Net, nor playing games or watching movies. Those things might happen in the course of the day, but when you’re working on the issues, you find you have to get away from the computer and away from anything else that will distract you, which is why I call it “staring at the wall” or “staring at the sky”.