Taking a Breather
I realized this morning at 11AM that I hadn't written a word since November 30th. Not a hint of anything for this blog. Not a slight edit of my novel, or the trash pile I just worked on, or even a Facebook post. I had just stopped writing for five days, and I now had to quickly think of a topic to write about for this blog.
So, let's talk about breaks.
If you are not of the opinion that an average of 1,667 words per day for a month straight is strenuous, let me tell you otherwise. November usually results in this strange mixture of excitement and burn-out, but it is always worth the feeling. I usually take December off as a result, preferring to focus on things that make me happy and all the things I put off for a month. It's time I make for myself and the holidays!
This may shock some people that I take off an entire month from writing. We have always been taught that if you're going to be a successful writer than you have to write every day (or at least as much as a normal person would work during the weekdays). It gets you into a habit and you take it much more seriously than just a hobbyist. And for the most part that is true. Having that habit is important, but there must be balance in all things, including balance. I just went in HARD for a month straight. To balance out that extremity, I take a month off to get back into a good space. That isn't to say that I put down writing completely! I still read and re-read my work to see what changes I need to make, or what kind of ideas are sparked from what I've read and I take notes. I just don't do any real edits or put down any new pages. I may take December to read (after all, it IS Indiecember!), or research things that will help my writing. Bascially, December is my time to do everything around writing without actually doing the writing :)
This is important to note: I am purposefully procrastinating. It is a kind of productive procrastination, as I am still getting things done but not taking that final step to actually doing the thing. Especially in America, I don't think we value the importance of productive procrastination. We work ourselves ragged, or have entirely unproductive stints because we're worn out. Our work days are long, we get short breaks, and vacation/sick days are hard to come by. I honestly thought this was just how the world worked until I got to the UK. Suddenly, as a part-time student worker I had 30 days worth of paid vacation. Let me stress that it was PAID time-off. I didn't know what to do with myself. That was so much more time off than I had ever thought was possible. My co-worker spread out her 30 days to take the occasional 3-day weekend, or just take off a week in the middle of February just because. She was never out of touch long enough to be out of the loop of what was happening, but she took a breather so that she wasn't overworked nor was her mental health at risk.
In some ways, Europe is just more civil in my opinion.
Why don't we value breaks? I understand the need to value work ethic and productive natures, but we stress those values so hard that we burn out! This isn't just a normal work place problem, either. Self-employed people likely have the worst end of this. They don't have someone keeping them in line or checking them, so they either go in too hard or not hard enough. We've never had to schedule rest for ourselves so we don't know how. I still struggle with this myself, and I am aware that I need to have more balance!
While I believe that this culture of hard-work-and-no-play is changing, it is slow. People have started to take mental health days, and some companies are even allotting separate time-off for vacation, sick days, and mental health days. It's a start, and I won't knock it! I'd love to see more normalized self-care in the future! But that also means that WE as individuals have to be conscious of ourselves. I know that I need time off after November, but I don't want to just be a blank slate for a month. For some people, that may look like trying to schedule easy workloads during certain days of the week/month to balance out the difficult days. (During my accountant days, I always made sure that Mondays were easy, but Wednesday and Thursday were always my most productive days.) This is still being productive, but not to the same degree as what we're used to.
TLDR: taking breaks is good for you, your mental health, and your productivity if you do it correctly. Productive procrastination can be a life saver!