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POINT OF VIEW: The Power of Downtime

Everyone needs downtime. Even writers.

I know this, and yet I am spectacularly bad at actually letting myself enjoy any of it.

Writer brains, as any writer will likely attest, are strange creatures. Mine is a magpie, flitting through life and chasing whatever is bright, shiny, and new.

The other day, we had lunch with friends, and one of them comes from a family of K’s, where every sibling’s first name starts with “K.” And then she mentioned that one of their daughter’s names started with an “E.”

And off my little writer brain went.

Families with kids whose names start with the same letter > a child whose name starts with a different one > I wonder if most families like that purposely name their kids with another starting letter > I knew another family like that > their names all started with D > Damon, my high school boyfriend, was one of them > My mother was walking her dogs the other day and ran into someone who asked if she was Scott’s mother. It was one of Damon’s brother > What a small world. we live in.

Note that my final destination wasn’t anywhere near where I started. And keep in mind this whole thing took less than three seconds to go through my head.

My writer brain loves to wander and explore all the connections between things.

And yet, when I am writing, I try to write every day, and have set word count goals to mee, inspiration or no. I am an evil taskmaster over my little writer brain.

So what’s a poor writer brain to do?

Somehow it finds a way. Whenever I have a few unstructured moments here and there, like when we’re riding bikes, or walking, or sleeping (see, to my brain, sleep is just more time to wonder and wander) it works its magic and makes connections in my stories that I couldn’t see before. I can’t tell you how many “Aha!” moments have occurred on my bike, in the shower, or in the car.

These moments are often the lifeblood of my story and plot, moving them forward in really cool and unexpected ways that never would have happened without at least a little downtime.

Some of my author friends schedule their downtime between stories, taking a few weeks off to chill and play video games and let their minds really roam free.

Not me. I have too much to do, and too little time before it’s time for me to shuffle my way off of this mortal coil.

So I do what I can, getting in a mail or garden or bicycle break here and there, and my writer brain works its magic to surprise me.

I hope he surprises you too.

To my writer friends, how do you use downtime? Do you schedule it? Do ideas come to you when you let your brain roam free? Or are your ideas more a product of hard thinking?