It’s Important to Take Writing Breaks

I know a perfectly lovely lady who is a digital copywriter.  She works her butt off all the time, and she’s constantly tired and stressed.  I happen to know she’s very talented, but she neglects self-care.  And self-care is one of the most vital parts of being a writer.

I was there, I was her, just a few years ago.  I would write for two or three months straight, without weekends, and wonder why I was getting slower and slower — why it got harder to get up and go to work every day.  The truth is that I was completely worn out.  But I kept trucking because I had to pay the rent, pay the utilities and buy groceries.  It never had to be that way, I just thought it did.

The Value of Weekends

There’s something so freeing in having a weekend to look forward to after a long, hard week of writing.  There’s something so nice about it.  But beyond giving you some shiny, happy feelings, it also gives you a chance to unwind and destress, a chance to clear your head.  Sure, I know it sounds like utter shit, and I used to believe that, too… but I was wrong.

See, I (and I expect you, too) was raised in a world where the ability to work yourself to death was considered a virtue.  This wasn’t a world that spawned creativity, it was a world of pure industry, where everyone was herded into factories to mechanically build consumer goods.  So if you could work for a long time without dropping dead or going insane, it was a really good thing.

Labor laws and whatnot were invented to protect the average Joe from his employers forcing this sort of endless labor onto him, but we self-employed creatives aren’t bound to those laws.  We really should be.  Like truckers, we should be limited in how many hours a day we can write.  This is probably a variable thing for different writers and for different projects, but when we can’t set limits for ourselves, we need to take a cue from others.

It wasn’t that long ago that I’d have four or five day long “Write-a-Thons.”  And when I say I was writing the whole time, I’m not joking.  I’d write 11 days in a row, all day long, because I thought I should.  I’d write for months without a break.  And you know what happened?  I started to suck in a big way.

Giving Yourself a Break

Yes, writing is work, and it’s not easy work.  That being said, you need to give yourself a break now and again.  Maybe you can’t do it all at once, but you can start to make changes today that will allow you to treat yourself better in the long run.  Do I have tips?  OF COURSE I DO!

1. Get Organized.  You’ll never break the cycle of weekend writing if you’re disorganized.  Organization is the key to much of this — if you don’t know when to write a thing, how long that thing will take and when that thing must be delivered, you’ll not only miss deadlines, you’ll kill yourself fighting against the mess.  Get organized.  Free tools like Google Calendar can go a long way to helping you sort out the chaos.

2. Ask for Help.  Sometimes you get so much stuff on your desk that you can’t possibly get it all done.  Oh, I know.  I’ve been there, my friend.  There’s no shame in asking another freelancer for help — with a caveat.  Never outsource without asking your client if it’s ok.  Some may want to only work with you or have sensitive information they’d rather keep to themselves.  Respect those wishes, especially if that client is your bread and butter.

3. Set Realistic Deadlines.  As a freelancer, you’re probably asked by your clients when you can deliver.  The answer should never put you in a place where you’re neglecting self-care.  Learn how much you can realistically write, really figure it out and be honest with yourself.  Everybody writes at a different pace, and so long as you’re paying the bills, it’s ok.

For example, I’m most comfortable at four to five 500 word pieces a day — gives me plenty of time to think about them.  That doesn’t mean I can’t write more when I have to, but I limit those “have to” situations as much as possible.  I tell clients it could be a while before I get to their stuff, most of them aren’t in a hurry, so it’s ok.  If they demand work right away, I charge them accordingly.  Be hard, stand your ground, and take no shit.

If  you take nothing else away from this blog, Fuckers, it’s that you need to take better care of yourself.  I don’t care if you’re taking Tuesday and Wednesday off or Saturday and Sunday, you need a fucking break and every week.  Treat yourself nice so you don’t blow your top.  Trust me, you’ll last a lot longer in this life if you pace yourself.