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Opinion: Why Every Indie Author Needs To Take A Break Now And Again

Opinion: Why Every Indie Author Needs to Take a Break Now and Again

photo of Debbie Young at Glencoe where she went to take a break

Debbie Young follows her own advice to take a break – pictured in Glencoe, Scotland, earlier this month

Do you find it hard to make yourself take a break from your writing life? Here’s the justification you need to take some time out and recharge your creative batteries!

In today’s post, Debbie Young, indie author, litfest director and ALLi’s Author Advice Center Manager, makes the case for the importance of rest for writers, not only for physical recovery, but also to reinvigorate creative intention and gain perspective.

Whether you’re nearing the end of the summer holiday season in the northern hemisphere, or enjoying the first signs of spring in the southern hemisphere, her personal account will give you the excuses you need to start planning your next vacation now!

 

Indie authors, as their own publishers, are their own bosses.

Most of us are ambitious to write great books and get them into the hands of readers. However much we do, there is always more to do: more writing, more marketing, more admin. A writer’s work is never done.

If ever a writer was able to check off every item on their to-do list, I’d question whether they’re really a writer at all.

Too Busy to Take a Break?

Whether or not we have a day job, family commitments or other pressures, we pile the work on ourselves, multi-tasking and straining the last drop of creativity out of each day:

  • We keep notebooks by our beds for those middle-of-the-night story ideas
  • We dictate copy in our cars and on walks
  • We get up early/stay up late to squeeze those extra writing hours out of the day
  • We eat and drink at our desks (oh, those crumbs in the keyboard!)
  • We may even exercise while writing – though so far I’ve resisted the lure of the treadmill desk!

If we saw a loved one working that hard in their chosen career, would we applaud them, or would we be imploring them to cut themselves some slack? Treat yourself the same way – you deserve it!

Too Old to Take a Break?

Once you reach a certain age, as I have, you may also start to feel additional pressure of “time’s winged chariot” (though Andrew Marvell’s poem is about a rather different activity), and worry about running out of time altogether (“When I have fears that I may cease to be Before my pen had gleaned my teeming brain…” – John Keats.)

Theories abound as to how to make the most of each day, how to divide up your time into the most productive chunks, how often to take breaks etc etc.

But I hold that nothing boosts your productivity more than completely downing tools for a week or two, counter-intuitive though that may seem.

Too Broke to Take a Break?

I’m lucky – I’m at that time of life when I can afford family holidays away from home, but you can still take a holiday at home, or rather, based at home, if your budget doesn’t run to fancy trips.

The important thing is to STOP – and pause – and rest – and return, revitalised to your writing life, stronger for having left it for a while.

This is how Orna Ross, director of ALLi and author of the Go Creative! series, describes the importance of rest in the indie author’s life.

Headshot of Orna Ross

ALLi director Orna Ross prescribes creative rest and play for all creatives

Creative rest and play are not breaks from the process of writing, publishing or business building. They ARE the process.

It happens at two levels. One is the obvious refreshment and restoration we get from taking a break away from the desk. All efforts to to perform, to make, to do draw on a pool of creative energy. Once that energy source is depleted, we become less effective. It’s like drawing water from a well, we need to give it time to fill back up again. But also the subconscious mind is core to the creative process itself, immensely more powerful than our surface, conscious minds. We have our best ideas, our aha moments, our insights and inspirations when we are relaxed, rested, playful.

Orna recommends a mini creative vacation each week, in the form of a “createdate” with yourself – something that I’ve found to be a really powerful and invigorating tool, even though I don’t always manage to fit one in each week. (Here’s an account of one I went on earlier this year.)

Practising What I Preach

Easy for me to say, you might be thinking, so here are some examples of what I gained from the two-week break I took earlier this month with my family.

  • New perspective on my writing schedule
    After an exhausting thirteen months publishing four novels, I decided to slow up, now that I have a strong start to my catalog of novels. I felt it was important to get the first three in my Sophie Sayers Village Mystery series out quickly, but that’s not a sustainable or reasonable pace long-term.
  • Revelation about my writing ambitions
    Having established myself as a lighthearted, humorous writer, I realised I do also have within me an ambition to write something more serious that won’t be described by reviewers as “a chuckle on every page” or “Miss Marple meets Bridget Jones”, much as I love those accolades.
  • Desire to research
    Having dismissed myself tongue-in-cheek as a lazy writer because I’m writing about what I know – English village life – I began to hanker after researching some meaty topics that I could then fictionalise, either within my village mystery series or outside of it.
  • New system of time management
    I’ve designed a new method for managing my varied workload: allocating a name to each day to do with a specific subset of tasks (e.g. Festive Friday for planning festivals and events), and saving up the related work for that day only. However, every day with a “y” in it, I will allow myself to write fiction!
  • Stimulating new sights and experiences
    From catching interesting radio programmes on the journey, to finding seaglass on the beach, the fortnight was full of new stimuli for new story ideas, as outlined in the photos below.
photo of woodland stream near Ben Nevis

Waiting for my family to finish a treetop walk near Ben Nevis (I’m not great with heights!), I realised I need to spend more time in the tranquility of woodlands – great for future createdate ideas

photo of vaguely butterfly-shaped granite

At the Cruachan Visitor Centre, where you can take a trip INSIDE a mountain, we were given a piece of granite as a souvenir – I chose mine for its shape, immediately thinking “The Granite Butterfly – what a great story title!” (Click image for more about Cruachan)

photo of two vintage teddy bears

This vintage bear (left), which I’ve named Galloway, called to me from the window of a charity shop in Dumfries, last home of the poet Robert Burns – I couldn’t help but start wondering about his back-story. Small teddy on right is my own since early childhood. Click image for more about the Scottish region of Dumfries and Galloway.

photo of heart-shaped necklace filled with real forget-me-not flowers

Spotted in the Glencoe Visitor Centre shop, this necklace filled with forget-me-not flowers will serve as a real talisman for when I’m writing about my character Sophie Sayers, who is described as “the girl with forget-me-not eyes”. (Click image for more about Glencoe Visitor Centre).

five pieces of seaglass arranged like the petals of a flower

Whenever we go to a beach, I look out for seaglass. These five different pieces were collected by me and my daughter on the shores of sealochs. Back story ideas again… where did they all come from?

How will your next vacation transform your writing life? You’ll never know unless you take it!

OVER TO YOU What have you brought back from your vacation to inspire your writing? Have you ever come to any big post-holiday descisions about your writing? What works best for you – long or short vacations? Any special travel tips for writers? Don’t be shy – we’d love to hear your comments!

#Indieauthors - are you working too hard? Read @DebbieYoungBN's post to justify taking a break - it can only help your #writing! - with top advice from @OrnaRoss Click To Tweet

OTHER POSTS TO HELP YOU TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
From the ALLI Author Advice Center Archive

This Post Has 8 Comments
  1. I’m all for a creative break to rest the cells and allow them to regenerate! I usually scale down my writing schedule for the long summer school holiday, which not only allows me to spend time with the youngest family member, but gives me chance to distance myself from my project(s).

    I love the feelings that arise when I return fresh to my writing. I can see new opportunities and never-noticed-before nuances in the prose; I have ideas for taking the plot in directions I would not have considered before.

    Next year I am planning two family trips away, both to locations I need to research for my writing and for promotional purposes. I thought it would be more fun to enjoy the locations as a holiday as well as for my writing work.

  2. As I’m full time care for my husband writing is my life. It’s where I can escape to and means everyday trapped at home isn’t wasted. I go out Thursdays – have carer here – but always write 1K before I go .Didn’t take writing on my week to Paros but will take editing next year. As Alison said -writing is an addiction -but a good one.

  3. Yes! The trouble is that writing is an addiction and marketing a big lump of guilt. Both produce compulsive behaviours!

    Holidays must be planned in – not always easy. Weekly ‘awaydays’ or even an hour’s walking several times a week is a quick tonic.

    Now, where can I find cheap flights on the Internet?

    1. Definitely an addiction, Alison! For some people, the marketing is an addiction too – or at least there is a constant “fear or missing out” if you’re not checking sales figures, evaluating ad performances, etc every single day, often multiple times. Does go on breaks to writing events count, I wonder?! 😉

  4. What I bring back from much of my vacation traveling is research/inspiration for the next books in my middle-grade mystery series. I live in the US and each novel will be set in a different state. I’m working on number 7 now but thinking ahead and planning road trips to future novel sites. Love a good road trip!

  5. Just back from a holiday with my three boys – I need to get back to my dining table/desk for a rest. But you’re right, a break from it all is a very good thing, I always have more energy and ideas afterwards. That bit of distance helps me to think about goals and whether I’m achieving them.

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Debbie Young

Debbie Young writes warm, funny feel-good fiction, including the Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries series, which begins with the bestselling "Best Murder in Show". As ALLi's Author Advice Center Manager, she also writes guidebooks for authors. Founder and director of the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival, she is a frequent speaker at other literary events. Find out more about Debbie's writing life on her author website www.authordebbieyoung.com.

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