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”.
It’s not fully a break, although in one sense it is because actual writing is not taking place. It is a progressive thing, while at the same time not looking progressive at all. During this time, you might get some work done at the computer, but whatever that is, it’s going to be peripheral to whatever those issues are and you can’t move on into the heart of the matter until that thinking is done.
So, not really truly a break, but generally it looks like one.
I get a few of those.
Then there is the “barrier” kind of break which is more like a I’ve-had-enough-I’ve-lost-the-will-to-live writer’s block experience where ideas and/or motivation have completely deserted you. This is the nastiest sort – this kind of break is not refreshing at all and definitely considered a curse.
This type of break is well known as writer’s block, and is the least liked. It too involves thinking, but there is desperation involved and a whole heap of stress generally involving your inner feelings of worth and whether or not you have wasted your life. This is when the worst lows hit and while you’re under the weight of all that, you cannot possibly get anything creative done – which makes you feel worse.
In every way, it is nasty.
Fortunately I don’t get those too often. I’m not sure if that’s because I’m “lucky” or whether it’s because I detour to refreshing areas of the plot and start with something new and different which gets my excitement going again. Whichever it is, I feel fortunate that I am not often burdened with that one.
What to do about those? That’s hard because if you’re feeling that sort of pressure, you don’t want advice from anybody. It’s also a very individual and personal thing. However, if you can turn it into one of the other breaks, that’s your best chance of stepping out from under any of that self-loathing (the worst layer there is).
A very simple example is this. Writer A says, “Oh, I can’t think how to do this. I have to work this out.” Writer B, in the same situation might say, “Oh, I’m stopped. What if I can’t go on? What if I never get back into it?”
A is looking at the problem itself, while B is making a problem out of the problem. So this nastiest form of writer’s block can feed on itself and because a negative spiral.
It’s the thinking that comes into it that needs to turn around. Trick yourself into it if you have to. Tell yourself it doesn’t matter and go do something fun. Take as much time as you need to and use every distraction you can not to focus on the issue.
The writing urge will return and you’ll be back in the swing of thing.
Breaks! Heck! This was meant to be jolly. Take care, guys and gals. Be kind to yourself, always.