On a windy Sunday morning, I’m sitting at the PC for the second time of the day. I woke up at 6 buzzing with a slight hangover from the excesses of a boozy Saturday night with my cronies. Several coffees later I sat down to start writing at 8 full of good intentions.
The result was absolutely nothing. I just sat there and fiddled, checking email, checking google, and playing around instead of working.
As an example of gaining ideas to post about, this one is pretty lame – knowing when to leave the keyboard because you can’t write due to a hangover! Nevertheless, sometimes you do need to take a break from keybashing and there are warning signs to look for that should sound an alarm. When writing you need to be mentally and physically on your toes.
At #1, procrastination is a sure sign you need to take a breather. If you’re surfing the internet and getting hooked on topics at a tangent which have no direct bearing on your assignment in hand, this is a sure sign you need to take a break. This is my number one sin as I’m forever getting sidetracked but procrastination takes many more forms than just idle surfing the internet to no effect. Sales people call this “soldiering”; making up chores and tasks in order to give yourself the feeling that you are being productive when in fact you are not.
#2 Not Knowing Where to Start
If you have a stack of commissions sitting on your desk and you don’t know where to start and the feeling of sinking dread is emerging, this is a good sign you need to stop scribbling and perform some prioritisation of your work. For the most part, I now deal with larger commissions that last several days rather than working on three or four projects each day. In my earlier days I had work from numerous, diverse sources all requiring urgent attention and paying scraps that together added up to a days pay. Frequently I was overwhelmed with attacking the waiting work and at this point I found it was better to stop writing and sort the work out into some sort of order. Generally, this exercise was more than sufficient to let me get back into the writing groove and keep me on a productive track.
If a client was not going to get their work on the deadline agreed, it’s better to simply tell them and to do so at the earliest opportunity rather than just letting a piece of work slip. Missing a deadline is not good for your professional image and reputation but it does happen and when that happens a client will appreciate your professionalism by letting them know early. The added bonus is that it takes some of the stress off you which will affect your writing and work performance.
#3 Being Ill (or Hungover)
Trying to write while you are under the weather is of little use in my experience. Writing is a mental activity and you need a mind that is on form. A couple of months ago I had a severe cold and being a man, decided I had severe double pneumonia while my kids did wonders for my headaches. Writing under such circumstances was completely pointless for me and if I did write, my work was full or spelling errors and typos making my work product nonsensical.
#4 Staring at a Blank Page
If you find yourself staring in some sort of trance at the screen, you definitely need a break from the PC. I find this happens quite often to me and it is easy to justify as “thinking time”. Be realistic with yourself when this happens as you’ll likely find this is nothing more than a mental habit forming which should not be encouraged. Taking a 15 minute break for a coffee and a walk is far better for your overall productivity and writing quality than staring into space.
#5 After Finishing an Assignment
If you have been writing about dog food for 2,000 words and then pass to your next project and need to focus on wedding dresses for another 3,000 words, an appropriate time to take a break is before you start down the aisle. Planning your working day is crucial to meet deadlines and deliver quality, however do not forget to factor in work breaks in order to allow the old grey matter to recuperate. Simply sliding from one project to another is a good way of letting yourself get stale because while you are dealing with a new topic, you’re brain still has the old one buzzing around.