You’re a cozy 378 words into a draft that feels solid, polished. But, your flow state has dwindled to a trickle and you’re just not sure where to go next. You can’t find the right words. Your outline is there, but…it’s dry and uninspiring.
You stare at the screen. You sip your coffee, or wine. I don’t judge.
Come on ideas. Please flow down my fingers and into the keyboard. We got this!
Even the most seasoned writers have moments of writer’s block. I notice these moments of un-inspiration happen when I’ve been at my desk for several hours straight or if I’m working at odd hours of the day. It’s like my brain is just begging for a break.
Ahhhh, a break. That’s what my brain wants. Well, why don’t I give it that? Because I’m on deadline, you silly mass of nerves and white matter! We. Must. Write.
But, seriously, why do we do this to ourselves? As writers, we often push forward, when we’re tired, to make progress. Thankfully, a silly app on my phone recently reminded me this thinking is just nonsense.
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Lessons Come From The Weirdest Places
Last fall I started to have issues with dizziness and brain fog. I’ll skip the long story here, but I decided to start playing word games and doing puzzles to sharpen my word recall and word selection skills.
One of my new favorite pastimes is a word puzzle app on my phone called Word Trip. I’m a bit embarrassed and proud to share that I’m on level 305 and am tackling puzzles that have been solved by 7.45% of players. The higher the level, the lower that percentage goes. I almost stopped at the 12% mark, but I’m no quitter.
One day I was stumped. I stared at those empty boxes and the handful of letters with no clue what could be spelled. I gazed some more, assuming my brain would magically create words. The more I looked, the more progress I should make, right? Ha!
After twenty minutes of frustration, I closed the app and set my phone down. My mind was tired and I was stuck. It felt like a writer’s block moment and I just needed a mental break. So, that’s exactly what I did.
The next morning, I thought I’d give that word game one more quick look before diving into my writing projects for the day. I didn’t think I’d make much progress, but I wanted to at least try.
I solved the last three words in about 10 seconds, with ease. What was that? What just happened? I sat in silence, shocked as I flew through the game and the screen lit up with points and accolades. I laughed as I realized the lesson here.
Rest Wins, Always. Give Your Brain a Break
Why are we conditioned to push forward when we are stuck? Why don’t we simply pause and rest?
It’s a practice that I have been working on embracing for years. I’m much better at it these days than in the past, but I still have moments of “pushing through” because I feel the pressure of a deadline.
But, I know, when I work on a project with fresh eyes and a rested mind, I can make more progress in a shorter amount of time, with fewer errors as well as more clarity and wit than if I write with a tired, muddled brain.
And, there’s some psychology to back this up.
Taking breaks increases your productivity, a-ha moments, creativity and replenishes your mental resources. Well, then! As creative thinkers and writers, we need all the mental resources we can get!
So if you’re feeling stuck, rest.
As a writer, I personally like to pause and listen to a short meditation on the Insight Timer app, go for a walk, take a nap, get out in my yard for a few minutes, stop and pet my dog, grab a snack or do a few yoga poses then come back to my keyboard with fresh eyes and a clear mind.
I almost always have a new perspective, and words to type!
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