Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Writers Need Recess, Too by Marie Wells Coutu

Marie Wells Coutu
Writers write better when they have recess.

A scientific study reported on the radio recently found (again) that children learn better when they have recess. This is not news to parents or teachers.

One website says, “Research dating back to the late 1800s indicates that people learn better and faster when their efforts are distributed, rather than concentrated. That is, work that includes breaks and down time proves more effective than working in long stretches.”*

Recess increases focus and reduces stress. As a side note, physical activity feeds the brain.

So how does this relate to writing? Your work is more effective if you take occasional breaks. I know increased focus and reduced stress helps me when I’m working on a novel. I have found that periodically I need to get up and walk around. If I don’t, I get brain fog.

Occasionally I see Facebook posts from an author who has written 10,000 words in a single day. Probably no breaks there! Perhaps under deadline, you may be forced to reduce or at least shorten your breaks. But you’ll still need to take those “recesses.”

Some authors suggest setting a timer for twenty minutes. Write furiously for that time, then take a five-minute break, get something to drink (water is always good!), reset the timer, and get back to work.
Writers Need Recess, Too

This is known as the Pomodoro Technique, developed in the late 1980s. A time management researcher based the practice on the idea that frequent breaks improve mental agility. He suggested using a timer to break work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes long, separated by short breaks. (Trivia note: The name comes from the Italian word for tomato, because an apple-shaped kitchen timer was used in the study.)

Given other research about physical activity, another approach might be to work longer (say, an hour), then take fifteen or twenty minutes for aerobic or strength exercises. Take a brisk walk, do jumping jacks (yeah, right!), or practice your ballet moves. The important thing is to get up and get moving in order to keep the creative juices flowing.

Several websites and books offer methods to help you determine the optimum time for your work sessions and recess periods. Try Googling “work rhythms” or “twenty minute break” to find lots of resources—some good, some not-so-good. But choose carefully and experiment, and you should be able to learn the work-recess pattern that works for you.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need a recess. I think I’ll go do some jumping jacks. Just kidding! But a walk around the block sounds good.

What technique works for you to keep your creativity and productivity flowing?

About the Author
Thirsting for More
by Marie Wells Coutu
Marie Wells Coutu began telling stories soon after she learned to talk. At age seven, she convinced neighborhood kids to perform a play she had written. She wrote her first book, “I Came from Venus,” in eighth grade, but studied journalism in college. After a career writing for newspapers, magazines, governments, and nonprofits, she returned to her first love—writing fiction—at the age of fifty-five. Her debut novel, For Such a Moment, won the Books of Hope Contest. Thirsting for More, the second book in the Mended Vessels series, released in April 2015. Books in the series are contemporary re-imaginings of the stories of biblical women, including Esther and the woman at the well. Marie retired after 15 years with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and she and her husband now divide their time between Florida and Iowa.

Thirsting for More
Northern transplant Victoria Russo moves to the charming southern city of Charleston, South Carolina, from cold Connecticut, hoping to renovate her career, her life, and an old house. Instead, she faces animosity, betrayal, and calamity. Will she repeat the pitfalls of her past mistakes, or find the freedom and restoration she seeks?