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Our Favorite Writing Tips (Part Three)

This post, our last favorite writing tip, gets a little personal. If you've read the first two posts, you know the tips, so far, haven't been craft-related. There are many excellent books that dive into the mechanics and process of writing, but these three tips lean more toward our mental state and lifestyle. This last one is an ongoing struggle for me and has been for decades.

Writing Tip #3 is Rest.

I don't do it well; even my vacations are agenda packed. My husband grew up going to the beach every summer, and I have cousins who take at least two beach trips a year.

I once asked my cousins what they did at the beach, and they were quick to reply - almost in unison, "Nothing!"

Nothing? For six days? The thought made me nervous and worried for them.

I have a productivity mindset that keeps me either whirling with activity or mired in guilt for not producing enough. For most of my adult life, I believed that busyness was a virtue and checklists a necessary function of getting through the day. Even my creative projects became an obsession that I couldn't step away from, even when the well was dry. Our frenetic need to create is often incompatible with creativity itself. Sometimes, we just need to give it a rest. I still love a good checklist, but I no longer equate how busy a person is with how much they produce - especially when it comes to creativity. The older I get, the more I can picture myself lying on a beach, doing nothing, maybe even taking a nap in the sun. Hammocks are also more appealing than they used to be, but I haven't succumbed to that temptation yet. If I'm working on a creative project, the quality of my work diminishes when I'm tired, so getting enough rest is vital. And what about naps? I can't do it, but I'm inspired by Salvador Dali's micronap technique. If you've tried it, let me know if it jumpstarted your creativity.

The kind of rest that recharges our brains for creative work isn't always passive; in fact, it might look more like play. Here are four types of rest that many experts believe are important for creators:

Meditation. Focus, calmness, clarity, and insight are important to the creative process. Try this: sit quietly for five or ten minutes and focus on your breathing. Acknowledge the thoughts that pop into your mind and then let them pass. Don't worry if the thoughts keep coming - just accept them and return your focus to the breath. That's why it's called a meditation practice.

Walking. Take a cue from writer Henry David Thoreau, who was known to walk for hours a day, and even wrote an essay about his pedestrianism. As our minds relax, they often come up with their most creative ideas. One study found that walking outside produced twice as many creative ideas as sitting in a room. Try this: when you feel the panic of a creative block, get up, put on your walking shoes, and circle the block once or twice. Forming the habit of a short daily walk will improve your creativity and your health!

Side Hobby. Finding a side project away from writing is a way for your mind to rest. These creative outlets don't require the mental energy of writing, and are a low-pressure wayto boost creativity. Consider them a form of mental recovery. Try this: Think about a hobby that has no income-producing probability for you and isn't connected to creative productivity. Some examples are knitting, taking up a musical instrument (remember, you don't need to be good at it), whittling, any kind of crafting, bird-watching.

Sabbatical. It's okay to step away. Not all of us can afford to take a year off, or even a few months, so consider taking a week off every six months to recharge your creative energies. It's easy to get depleted, even when we're intentional about resting. Life just keeps coming at us, so step away and don't feel guilty. Try this: Make a plan for a week-long sabbatical in the next six months. If you can travel somewhere, great. Take a solo hiking trip, hole up in a hotel on the beach and rethink your work, or treat yourself to a cabin in the woods and just breathe. If you can't get away, plan a staycation and finish a side project, schedule time for reflective solitude, make a list of books to read (or just one). The idea is to remove yourself from your work so you can return refreshed and renewed.

Rest is not an optional leftover activity, but a natural extension of our creative work. Try it!

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