What every writer needs

Every writer craves a pub­lish­er, an edit­or and most of all, time to write. An ocean full of story ideas, hefty roy­alty cheques and some recog­ni­tion doesn’t hurt either.

But you know what writers need most? Downtime. That’s right, big chunks of do noth­ing time when frag­ments of ideas can bounce around the cra­ni­um and pos­sibly morph into some­thing bril­liant.

At some point every writer sits in front of their com­puter strain­ing for the right word, phrase or sen­tence. But let’s say they for­get all that and take a hike with the dog or stand in the shower for a long time let­ting hot water sluice over their limbs. That’s often when an “aha!” moment and the answer to the prob­lem appears.

But how often do any of us give ourselves any real down­time? There’s always an email to answer, an errand to run or a dead­line to meet. And in today’s high tech world, even a walk in the woods doesn’t guar­an­tee unin­ter­rup­ted down­time.

Scott Belsky, author of Making Ideas Happen and CEO of Behance, dis­cusses this in “What Happened to Downtime? The Extinction of Deep Thinking & Sacred Space.” According to Belsky, every­one, espe­cially cre­at­ive folks, should sched­ule reg­u­lar down­time.

One thing Belsky sug­gests is estab­lish­ing a ritu­al for unplug­ging. Yes, I know it sounds blas­phem­ous but this means mak­ing a point of turn­ing off your com­puter, cell phone, Blackberry and maybe your land­line too.

Downtime on a Sunday after­noon. And, no, I didn’t chop any wood first.

Sundays are my down­time days. I get up when I want, eat when I want, take a nap if I want, read and putter with no par­tic­u­lar goal in mind. And, even though I don’t com­pletely unplug, I try not to have the com­puter on for long.

Once a year or so, Rick and I head to Tofino for a totally unplugged hol­i­day. The beach cab­in we stay at doesn’t have a phone or Internet con­nec­tion and there’s no TV, radio or even a clock.

It’s hard to describe how lib­er­at­ing that is. And the relax­a­tion goes way beyond an ocean view and strolls on the beach. The sense of let­ting go – the relief of not hav­ing to check or respond to any­thing or any­body — is enorm­ous.

And, what’s really inter­est­ing is the cre­at­ive energy I feel after a do noth­ing day or an escape to Long Beach. Plot prob­lems seem to dis­solve, a good resource comes to mind or a pos­sible way to end a chapter presents itself. Not every time, of course, but enough to know that down­time is an import­ant part of being a writer.

Downtime. It’s import­ant and I need more of it in my life. So, I’ve just made a big do noth­ing date with myself for the week­end. Who knows, it might be the best cre­at­ive ses­sion I’ve had in a long time.



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