How to Recharge

June 5, 2011 in General Topics

I’m about to commit a cardinal sin (in some writing circles) and suggest that you do exactly what I did last week, whenever your time for vacation rolls around: step as far away from a keyboard as possible.

Back in my twenties I held to the thousand words a day myth (assuming seven days a week). I’ve seen many writers advocate this kind of hardcore diligence to the craft, and while I can’t speak for all of us, I know it led me straight to one place: burnout station, in orbit around a throbbing pulsar called my skull. I don’t get the camp that says you have to write every day. Years ago I was an advocate for such a philosophy, and then what I realized it was doing was simply putting out more material, not better material.

It’s a bit like a widget factory that suddenly decides to triple production without any upgrade to its resources, ignoring all the other factors. If it holds fanatically to its goal, it can get it done, sure, but what does the quality of the product look like? Could a scene not unlike Michael Keaton’s drumming on the door of a barely-assembled car in “Gung Ho” result? I know for me it did — tons of stories going out. Tons of stories unfinished, too. I’m not talking about not being well-edited, I’m talking about the sum of their plots and ideas not being what they could have been if I’d allowed them to congeal a while longer.

I think it is important for you to also allow yourself a complete span of guilt-free, brain-dead time on your vacation. If you want to read, go for it, but just like the thousand-word-a-day method can be overkill for your “work week” fiction, I strongly advise against ever sitting down to type, or even do something lightweight, like edit. Your brain needs the rest. Like a tired muscle, you have to let it relax a bit, and feed it something easy and stimulating, like a good sunrise and a nice cup of coffee, with laptop safely offline and untempting.

Or, better, left at home.

Stay tuned.