[Guest Post] Establishing Your Writing Fallback Point

Suzanne BrazilThis is a guest post by writer Suzanne M. Brazil.
Suzanne is a freelance writer and editor living in a recently empty nest in the suburbs of Chicago. Her work has been featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Writer’s Digest, The Chicago Daily Herald and many local publications. She is a frequent blog contributor and is working on the second draft of her first novel. You can connect with Suzanne on http://suzannebrazil.com/, and on Facebook and Twitter.This post is Part II in a two-part post series on “When Not Writing IS Writing.” (Did you like this post? Be sure to visit “Counting Thinking As Writing” too!)

How do you ensure you don’t go too long or get too far away from a project before sitting down at the keyboard?

A well-meaning (soon to be ex?) friend recently sent me a “motivational” weight-loss article that made a good point. When in pursuit of a difficult goal, follow the lead of history’s successful generals: Establish a fallback point.

These military masterminds had predetermined spots to rest and regroup after hitting a wall. They didn’t go all the way back to their starting point. They set a mark and didn’t retreat past it.

We can do the same with scheduled breaks in our writing:

  • Choose a maximum length of time for your elected writing hiatus.
  • Note start and end dates on your calendar. Tell a friend/writing buddy to hold you accountable.
  • Set a minimum goal (i.e. word count, number of pages) and establish a reward for reinstating your routine.

Giving yourself permission to not write can increase productivity. Several recent studies (here and here) show that corporate employees who regularly take vacations are more refreshed and productive than those that grind away racking up comp time. It makes sense that writing and other creative endeavors could benefit from regular breaks as well.

My daughter got married this summer and I decided to take the week off. No word counts, blog posts, book reviews or deadlines. I was relaxed and enjoyed all the hoopla. I also made sure to have a plan and schedule in place for getting back to work the next week. I came back to my draft with fresh eyes and a handful of new ideas that popped up sometime between the rehearsal dinner and the last dance.

Family events, vacations, etc., should be enjoyed without guilt or censorship. Time away may just increase your enthusiasm for a work in progress. It will certainly make your friends and family happier than having to listen to you stress out about either having to write or not getting any writing done.

Writing is sitting down at your keyboard and putting words on a blank page, but there’s a wider view available to us. Your writing routine is just that, yours. What works for one writer may give another one hives.

If you find a technique or schedule that works for you, don’t dismiss it. Soak in the tub, dream up suspects for your murder mystery, and remember, sometimes not writing is writing.

Did you like Suzanne’s post? Be sure to check out Part I, “Counting Thinking As Writing” and visit her website, SuzanneBrazil.com.