It’s the writer’s mind and heart in which written works are grown to maturity. Nowhere else does every single element needed to produce the end result come together. It’s as if our mind/heart, or brains/guts if you like, is a field in which the seed of an idea can be planted and then nourished by time, craft and often the help of our colleagues.
It’s stressful, being a field. You have to manage all that nourishment coming in so it gets properly onto the page, while at the same time your inner resources are getting pulled out by the very thing you’re trying to create. And like a field, if you don’t have a rest period from time to time, you become so drained that no amount of nutrients put in will get anything out. In agriculture, resting a field is called letting it lie fallow. In writing, or any discipline, really, I call it the same thing: fallow time.
Of course, we wouldn’t be in this game if we didn’t have a passion for bringing our visions to life, but remember: even God took a day off. Fallow time is your chance to let the heart/mind heal and recharge so it can grow its next crop of results even better than before.
So, a few propositions:
Vacation: Vacation is part of your compensation—for most of us it’s the only payment we’re likely to get! Find a good place to stop working, reach it and then go.
Breaks: Even if it’s only five minutes, go off by yourself (without your notepad, smartphone, tablet, etc.) and chill. DO NOTHING. Think as little as possible. Find a meditation method that suits you and practice it.
Reading: Lose yourself in a good book that has nothing to do with what you’re writing. Not the newspaper, a book.
Fitness: You don’t have to be a jock. Just go outside and amble for twenty or thirty minutes. If the weather is inclement, stroll around the aisles of your cube farm (assuming you’re a resident of such), do some yoga or play some baseball on the Wii. You get the idea.
Sleep: Get enough. Most people need 7-8 hours, some more, some less. You can always tape Kimmel and watch it later.
Say no: Too often we dig our own holes using the shovel of “yes.” Refuse some requests by just pleading overload, or by showing how taking on this one additional thing will hose your other valuable activities. Or just politely decline with no explanation—you’re a grownup and you have that right.