Here’s something I’ve learned during my years of freelancing that I’ve found very helpful in my creative writing: the importance of taking time to decompress. As a freelancer in marketing communications, I worked on a project basis. Some projects were quick turnarounds and some were longer term in nature. But either way, there were always deadlines attached to them. And one of the reasons I freelanced successfully for years was my commitment to meeting those deadlines — it was a source of professional pride to me and earned me a reputation as a reliable, go-to pro.
But here’s what I want to share: Meeting those deadlines was often stressful. I learned that the best way to keep myself from burning out was to give myself time to decompress — to wind down and take it easy in between intense bouts of work. This allowed me to recharge so that I could bring my full cup of mental energy to the next project I had to handle.
I’ve taken the same approach with my creative writing. It’s worked well for me — and I think it can help you manage your energy more effectively as well. Giving yourself time to decompress after an especially intense round of writing can:
Prevent burnout: Sapping your creative energies is never a good idea. When you feel burned out, you lose your momentum, But even more serious, you run the risk of losing your motivation. You lose not just your drive when you feel drained, you also lose the joy and playfulness that are so important to spirited writing.
Re-boot your creativity: When you allow yourself to recover from intense mental activity, you give yourself the chance to renew your creative juices. You also give yourself the opportunity to let wonderful new ideas bubble up and to open new paths to unexpected discoveries that can enrich your work on many levels.
Renew your commitment: To get to the next level, we all need to step out of our comfort zones, to stretch and grow. We all have far deeper mental and physical reserves than we give ourselves credit for. At the same time, if we push ourselves to the point of strain, we make it harder to bounce back. When this happened, our commitment to our writing goals can be strained as well.
Decompressing can be as simple as building small breaks into your day: punctuating intense bouts of work, with quick restorative walks or stretching, for example. Or it can involve giving yourself a day to relax, digest, and integrate major changes you’ve made to a draft so that you can revisit them with a fresh eye and mind. Sometimes just reading a magazine or taking time for a movie works.
How about you? Are there any ways you decompress that work well for you? If so, I’d love to have you share them as we all write on.