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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