I’m a terrible judge of things when it comes to downtime. Back in my salad-delivery days, a restaurant manager’s favorite phrase was “if you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean.” I took that horrible thing to heart, and, while it might make me a fantastic employee, it doesn’t make me a better writer.
What I’ve realized over and over again is that I stink at taking breaks. Work gets deep, or I get one of those fantastic rushes of creativity that mean I must Write Everything Now, and then there’s a natural lull and I don’t take the time to recharge. Instead, I keep plugging away. Not just the usual writing every day – that’s necessary for me to do – but the full workday, when it might be more useful to get on my bike rather than staring at the silent words on the page that aren’t giving up their secrets. The more I do of the former, the more I need to do the latter, until everything locks up and I have to reboot.
Rebooting can be a book, or a walk, or time with family at the beach. When I return, the work is still there, and I can see it again. It’s no longer mute words staring back at me from a page. It’s story and ideas and, above all, a conversation.