‘Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop’-Ovid
This weekend I had brain frazzle. I’d written so much over the past week that I wouldn’t have been able to write a shopping list if you’d asked me nicely.
It’s easy to think we’re being productive by constantly producing. It’s easy to fill the time when we’re doing nothing and push ourselves even harder.
Little words like ‘should’ and ‘ought’ probably start to float around our heads at this point; and yet taking a break and recharging through rest and enjoying different activities are so important to coming back to the page refreshed and enriched with ideas.
So if you’ve been pushing yourself too hard lately and can smell smoke; like me, it might be your body’s way of reminding you to stop and smell the roses.
1. I Watched Reality TV
I’m like, literally not ashamed to say I adore reality TV—It’s my type on paper—it is what it is. Ok I’ll stop:D. There’s something about mindless television at the end of the day (and by that I mean after dinner, not at the end of the day) that’s like a cooling ice pack to the overworked brain.
My favourites at the moment are Love Island and The Real Housewives of New York City. What’s not to love about silly looking muscly men and the narcissistic antics of a socialite and convict turned cabaret star? It’s a way to detach and come back to earth; preparing me for the next day’s mental challenge. I also love to people watch:)
2. I Researched a New Topic That Changed My Perspective
It was to do with the Kingdom of Benin, (now a part of modern-day Nigeria)—a very old and highly advanced civilisation brought to an end in 1897 under British rule.
Over a thousand bronze sculptures resided in the ancient palace until they were transported to Europe in the nineteenth century; significant because they reveal an artistic sophistication that challenge the traditional notion of African art and culture as primitive and naive.
Even though this formed part of my University studies, I immersed myself in the topic and it opened my eyes to the fact that colonialist attitudes still inform us today in our schools, in our media and in our museums.
Although I was learning something new, I just read and listened to videos without writing anything down, enjoying being receptive rather than productive.
It made me realise that the more we rid ourselves of ignorance about other people and cultures, not only do we become better human beings, we are also better informed as writers. I came away with a fire in my belly at the injustice of it all and along with it, a thousand new ideas.
3. I Tried a New Skill
I’ve had a book on origami on my bookshelf for a long time but had never actually used it. An exquisite art practised by people of all ages and backgrounds in the Far East, I’d read that it’s also used worldwide as an aid in children’s development and as a therapeutic tool.
The word ‘origami’ comes from two Japanese words: ori and kami, which mean ‘to fold’ and ‘paper’ respectively.
I must admit that those ‘helpful’ arrows can be extremely frustrating at times and make me wonder if the Japanese tradition of transmitting the skill from parent to child is preferable to becoming frothy and frustrated over a how-to book.
Yet once I’d mastered a few of the basics I could understand how the ‘flow state’ helps to relax, re-centre and draw attention to the present moment.
Afterwards the clarity that it brought me was beneficial in beginning a new task afterwards; so I think it’s something I’ll try in future either before a writing task to encourage focus or during a break to re-ground myself after a couple of hours in fantasy land.
4. I Got Sporty
Apart from dog walking and occasional yoga, like many people I have moments when I have a fierce desire to be Lara Croft and then periods when I can’t be bothered.
The only trouble is that spending a lot of time at a desk (or slouching on the sofa with my laptop on my knees:( is telling after a while in the form of backache and a feeling of restlessness from energy that’s craving to be expended.
Aerobic activity is the most beneficial form of exercise for the mind due to the maximal amount of oxygen carried to the brain; so I thought that in the absence of a bike or gym membership I would go for a run around the local neighbourhood.
When I left my house and took a few lunges forward I thought: this is wonderful! —Why don’t I do this all the time? But all that changed once I passed the bus stop at the top of the street and worked up a stitch so painful I’d thought I’d been shot:D.
It’s a matter of practice and even though it’s going to be painful for a little while, it’s something I know will help me to feel more energised and relaxed when I sit down to write in the morning.
It’s been proven that how we start our day sets the tone for everything that comes after and I’ve decided that I’d like to start mine with mental sharpness and a brain flooded with happy dolphins (I’m referring to endorphins but I prefer the idea of mini dolphins jumping around my brain—and they are clever and nice:).
If you think exercise would be beneficial to the work you’re doing but are struggling to act upon it, I’ve discovered a lady called Mel Robbins who has developed a technique called the 5-second rule which you can view here. It’s a simple but brilliant trick to doing the things your heart wants to do when your mind and body are resisting.
5. I Rewarded Myself
This is the most important way I took time out and something that’s often overlooked in terms of goals. When we’re focused on a particular target, it’s so easy to focus on the negative; on all the things we haven’t achieved.
janedoewrites.com has been up and running for a month now and instead of feeling euphoric as I did at the beginning, in the past week doubts began to set in. For the first time I thought to myself: is this going to work? Are people actually interested in what I’m writing? But then it occurred to me—wait a minute, what about all the positive changes?:)
♡ I worked up the courage to share my website with my family, my friends and others on social media.
♡ I’ve made meaningful connections and have new subscribers to my website.
♡ I’ve written stories to send away to writing competitions.
♡ I’ve had over 20,000 views on Quora.
I feel that taking a moment to focus on little achievements and celebrating them by rewarding ourselves is such an important part of taking time out. It brings back clarity, re-infuses our project with positivity and acts as a stopping point to refuel, take a breath and appreciate the view.
When I say I rewarded myself, I didn’t spend any money. I took the dog for extra long walks, listened to funny podcasts, learned new skills and also did absolutely nothing.
Now for your turn. Have you ever experienced writing burn-out? Do you have any personal tips or remedies to come back the best you can be? I’d love to read your advice in the comments section below.
Until next time^^,