Sunday, June 10, 2012

Why writers need holidays from being a 24/7 writer

There are writers who talk - even brag - about the fact they write 365 days a year. I applaud their productivity and dedication, but I don't believe that's healthy. For me, a writer needs to take breaks from writing at least once a year, to stop getting stale.

Now, there are lots of ways to avoid going stale. Set yourself a fresh challenge. Tackle a new medium. Write in a new genre. Create stories for different audiences. Write your central character in a different gender from yourself. Write short instead of long.

Yesterday I was writing my first ever feature screenplay. Today and tomorrow I'll be juggling nine minutes of a children's TV project with a one-page pitch for a post-watershed drama. Even this blog is a useful alternative from all that screenwriting.

I do believe a change is a good as a rest, but it's not the same as having an actual break. No pens, no paper, no laptop - a total escape from deadlines and formats and match cuts and scene breaks and rising stakes and narrative position and tone and all those things.

Why? Because creativity is like a well. You can keep drawing from it for months, but eventually you need to leave the well alone for a while. Let it refill. Allow time for new ideas, new stories, new characters to seep in. Let your creative brain recharge.

In reality, writers never stop writing - even if they do surrender their pens, pencils, etc. They'll be writing in their head, consciously and subconsciously. The mind will be solving ongoing story problems. It's who we are, what we do. We can't help it.

But giving yourself a break from the everyday business of writing makes it special again, even exciting. Plus you never know when inspiration will strike. My first feature was sparked by a painting I saw in an art gallery window in New Zealand, purely by chance.

That's the other thing a break from writing can do - inspire future writing. So go to galleries and museums. Visit new places and meet new people. Escape your usual environment, give yourself a chance to be inspired. Onwards!

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