Mental Breaks and Why They’re Necessary

First of all, I realized yesterday that we should have discussed The House of Many Ways last Thursday, and I apologize for totally spacing it. I blame my deadline, but even so, I should have taken that into account when I made the reading schedule. So! Lesson learned. We’ll discuss the book next Thursday, so everyone who wants to has time to hunt down and read the book now that we all remember what we’re supposed to be doing.

Secondly, after House we’re done with our current readalong. Please feel free to let me know what you’d like to do for future readalongs–science fiction, fantasy, adult, young adult, specific series, etc. Also, let me know if you super hate the readalongs and would prefer to never do them again. Or if you love them. Feedback is lovely, Squiders.

Right, onto real content.

Part of why I didn’t remember til yesterday about our missing readalong is because I am vacation. And not just any vacation, but a lay-on-the-beach, no sightseeing, absolutely no responsibility sort of vacation. Occasionally we have to go into town for food. Also, we all have colds. But, in general, we are not doing much and not accomplishing much and it is glorious.

Especially after coming off of several months of tight deadlines. It feels fantastic.

Here’s the thing. In today’s society, we feel like we always have to be going somewhere and doing something. If we spend a day playing video games or reading a book, many of us feel like we’ve wasted our time, no matter how much enjoyment we got out of the activity at the time. And creative types tend to be worse about this. We feel like we always need to be cranking something out, whether it’s a short story, a sweater, some sketches, etc. It’s part of the reason NaNoWriMo is so successful. We feel like if we’re not constantly creating, and creating a lot, that we’re lacking.

It’s kind of a quantity over quality mentality.

But by giving ourselves a break, we get a number of benefits:

1) We allow our brains a break. Working and working and working and working is tiring, and after a while, it’s easy to start to feel burned out. A little while longer, and it becomes hard to remember why we’re bothering. Sometimes our muses are at their most productive in silence, because they can try different combinations with no expectations and no pressure.

2) It allows a recharge. Especially after you’ve just finished a major project, there’s a feeling of…listlessness. Like you’ve been so focused on something, devoting so much of your energy to it, and when it’s over you feel lost. And it can be really tempting to just jump into something new to try and fill that hole, but everything feels wrong, somehow, and nothing really helps. Taking a mental break allows you to put your old project to rest and clear out your cylinders before starting something new.

3) It helps you better pick out good projects from bad. Sometimes, when you’re so focused on productivity, you seize on a project–any project–just to feel accomplished. Later you wonder why you bothered, or wish you’d spent that energy on something else. If you allow yourself some downtime, you’ll be able to better see what appeals to you and why, so you’re happier when you are working.

Of course, sometimes there’s no time for a break, and sometimes breaks can extend so long that it seems like you’ll never get back to things. But in moderation, there’s nothing quite like a little mental free time.

How do you feel about breaks, Squiders? Taken one recently? Have any tips or, alternately, things to avoid?

As for me, I shall be on the beach, reading the random 60s gothic novel I found, and not worrying about anything.

One response to this post.

  1. Breaks are necessary every now and again, but I have a habit of not taking them. 😦


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