I’ve heard a few writers offer the advice, “Write something, every day, without fail.” While their intentions are good, the logic behind the advice is bad. In that respect I disagree with the principle.
During the early stages of my writing career, I took that kind of advice to heart. After all, these were writers who were actually practicing what they preached. For a newbie like me, it was sound logic.
I grew older and more proficient in my writing abilities, and more aware. I began to realize that my habits weren’t in alignment with the practice of writing every single day. In fact, quite the opposite.
I could go days, even weeks without writing a single word. Because of the advice I was heeding, I used to feel guilty if I let a day pass without writing something. Eventually I got wise to the fact, that’s not how it works.
How it works
The principle is akin to eating. We take food at certain times, and very little if anything in between those meals. Usually it’s to replenish our bodies, other times it might be to satisfy a particular craving.
The point is, there are recognizable gaps in the ingestion cycle. Whether by nature or by intent makes no difference. The digestive system does its job and then rests, in preparation for the next cycle.
Through reading, writers “ingest” large amounts of information, but not all at once. As they create new works, all that information gets “digested” and incorporated into their creation in some fashion. Or not, depending on the need for specific details.
Responding to a need
Just as the body requires rest between periods of high activity to recover, and the digestive systems needs to rest after each replenishment cycle. So too, does the mind need rest. Its “down time” periods, however, are not always perfectly definable. Terms like minutes, hours, and days, or even weeks and months are meaningless.
The human body is an amazing creation, “telling” us when it needs replenishment. Shutting down in a sense, forcing us to rest in repeated cycles. And the mind, taking in massive amounts of reality through the five senses, sometimes “refusing” to produce new ideas. A phenomenon called writers’ block by some.
That’s what I call taking a break. That’s the mind’s way of saying: Give it a rest.