Dec

5

2013

Clear Your Brain!

by Tamela Hancock Murray

Panorama of a sunset on a lake

When I talk to writers about the day-to-day operations of my office, I usually mention weekends. And that we have them.

I make an effort to stay away from the computer for business on the weekends unless there is some urgent reason to do otherwise. This may sound selfish, and perhaps it is. But I also try not to bother my clients on the weekends because I want them to have weekends, too. Writers tend to pay attention when an email from their agent arrives, and I want them to be free not to think of business on the weekends.

I understand that many writers have other jobs and commitments and that may mean Sundays are their only time to write. But I hope these writers will choose another time or day to take off. Why not Tuesday? Or maybe Saturday.

Here’s why:

I need at least a day or two every week just to live. “Living” means going to the library, picking up dry cleaning, buying groceries, getting the car washed. You know, the things everyone needs to do to function as a human. It also means fun things such as attending parties or discovering a new restaurant, as my husband and I did on a recent weekend.

If you don’t take any time off and change your activities, your brain never clears. If every day is a business day, all things become blurred.

Clearing your brain can involve activities such as polishing furniture, another recent weekend accomplishment. In other words, doing something more physical than sitting at a desk gives you a different sense of accomplishment. Then the next workday, you can approach your computer with a fresh perspective. Who knows? Maybe one of your characters will have an epiphany while polishing furniture.

Your turn:

How do you change your activities to clear your brain?

Do you write to put off chores, or put off chores to write?

25 Responses to “Clear Your Brain!”

  1. Jackie Layton December 5, 2013 at 4:38 am #

    Outside activities clear my mind. If I walk my dog around the block, work in my garden, watch a tennis match, or meet the girls at the park, I always come back home refreshed.

    Thanks for the reminder that it’s okay to take a day off from writing.

    Have a great weekend!

  2. Ron Estrada December 5, 2013 at 5:17 am #

    Most of us have had to make sacrifices so we have time to write. We’ve given up most of our free time to do what we love the most. But you’re right, it’s easy to slip into workaholic mode and never leave the desk. I try to leave Fridays open for a date night with my wife (which usually involves a movie so that counts as research). I also try not to fill up my weekend. Time to putz around, as I call it, it crucial. Especially if there’s a trip to the bookstore involved.

  3. Edie Melson December 5, 2013 at 5:29 am #

    Tamela, this is such good advice! I started giving myself the gift of weekends at the beginning of this year and instead of loosing time and forward momentum, I’ve gained it.

  4. Catherine Hackman December 5, 2013 at 6:08 am #

    I saw a documentary about deceased abstract painter Mark Rothko. The commentator said that he dressed up every day to go to his studio, painted for eight hours, and went home. He didn’t paint on weekends. I like his work ethic, so I have tried to do that with my writing: have specific times for writing and take time off. It is good to know that agents don’t expect writers to be going 24/7.

  5. Patti Jo Moore December 5, 2013 at 6:13 am #

    Excellent post and advice, Tamela. :)
    Due to my spinal-related issues, I cannot sit for too long at one time (which is really a blessing—it forces me to get up from my computer and move around!).
    I’ve found that playing my piano, doing routine household tasks, and working on my needlepoint are great diversions that somehow help me feel more creative when I return to the computer. ;)
    Thank you for sharing this post today.

  6. Martha Rogers December 5, 2013 at 6:38 am #

    Good advice, Tamela. I do take time off to attend a weekly Bible study followed by my First Place 4 Health group once a week and it does wonders for my soul, body, and brain. Weekends are for family activities or time with friends. Sometimes I write on Saturdays simply because an idea comes to mind and I have to get it down or I’ll lose it. As a SOTP writer and a procrastinator, I end up writing things down whenever the inspiration hits or I’ll lose it.

    • Martha Rogers December 5, 2013 at 6:40 am #

      Now that was redundant wasn’t it? I meant to delete one of those last two sentences. Haven’t had my hot tea yet.

  7. Debra L. Butterfield December 5, 2013 at 7:36 am #

    Too many of us believe that to achieve success we must make sacrifices in our life and work long hours 7 days a week. Unfortunately we sacrifice the wrong things (our family, our health) when it could be TV time and a bag of potato chips. As a single women entrepreneur, it is all to easy for me to work 12 hrs/day 7 days a week, but my body and spirit rebel. I find myself not wanting to work at all, and I end up not doing anything for 2 or 3 days. So I’m learning to limit my work hours to 8-10, and keep the weekends for that “living” stuff you mentioned. It has helped to refresh me and my desire to create.

  8. Deb Elkink December 5, 2013 at 7:46 am #

    I sew! I mean, when I’ve been sitting and stewing for hours–no, days and weeks–over my writing without a proper break, all that my brain and hands want is colour, texture, the smell of linen or wool or–best–silk. Not that my gorgeous creations are always wearable (according to my perspicacious and fashionable daughters), but the delight of these senses wipes the cobwebs away and gives me clarity and readiness to get back to my writing project.

  9. Jaime Wright December 5, 2013 at 7:54 am #

    I think it depends on if you view writing as “work”. I am immersed in HR all week long at my day job then come home to two kids under 4 and my husband’s youth pastor work which naturally seeps into our home. So for me, writing, answering my agent, working on deadlines is–believe it or not–an escape! Deadlines are my excuse to hide in the bedroom office downstairs and write for a few hours on Saturday/Sunday. :) But I won’t if I see my family suffering. “Mommy time” is still priority #1!

  10. Marci Seither December 5, 2013 at 8:22 am #

    I love doing something creative such as sewing a fun apron, beading a bracelet, baking something with my kids or even painting. While I was writing “Empty Nest” I had a canvas on an easel and worked on a painting for the dining room after I finished a long writing day.

    I try not to write on Sundays and will make it a point to do something that helps set apart our day of worship/rest from the rest of the week.

    I love what Benjamin Franklin said…”Write a book you want to read or do something worth writing about.” I think it is important to have a balance of both.

  11. Jeanne Takenaka December 5, 2013 at 8:48 am #

    Because I don’t have a ton of time to write, even as an SAHM, I relish every moment I get. My goal is to balance real life and writing life. I’m not often successful, but I’m working on it. When I begin to feel stressed about accomplishing things in writing, I find a step back from it for a little while helps me regain a healthy perspective. Sometimes, I watch a movie with my husband or my family. Or I spend time outside walking, doing things with my family.

    I sometimes scrapbook, but not as much as I used to.

    And as for writing and chores? My chores almost always take a back seat to writing. As the dust in my house will attest.

    Thanks for the reminder to make sure I give my brain time to rest as I do other things. :)

    • J.D. Maloy December 5, 2013 at 12:51 pm #

      Jeanne, I resonate with you about the balance of writing and life. I think we both have two young boys, right? After praying and confessing my heart to the Lord, I spoke with my husband about my issues. Together, we agreed on a schedule for when I could take time and write. It’s mommy’s time that he fully supports. Then we talked with our boys about it so they are in the loop. It has been beautiful and such a blessing to have my entire family involved in this journey! I’m going to pray that the Lord shows you what you need.

      To answer Tamela’s question… MUSIC and DANCING revive my soul! I will get my groove on in the kitchen or shake it around the house and my family knows that mommy is taking a break. My boys usually join in and there is nothing like a dance party while prepping dinner :) Oh, how much I praise the Lord for music and dancing!

      • Jeanne Takenaka December 5, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

        JD, yes, I too, have two boys. My husband is actually very supportive, which makes a huge difference for me. The trick is finding/making/setting aside time when he travels for his job. He was recently gone for 4 weeks. I had to bite back frustration at all the things that took away writing time. But it’s real life, and my goal is to be fully in the moment. It may be time to have another chat with my hubby and kiddos. It’s a great idea to get the entire family onboard. :) Thanks for sharing this. :)

    • J.D. Maloy December 5, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

      Jeanne, I so get it! In the early stages of the balancing act, I would get so irritated because it seemed when momentum came, I had to stop, haha. Like Jamie, writing energizes me after a long day, which is why I write when my kids are sleeping. So I got specific and asked the Lord to bless every writing session I had. Whether 15 minutes or 3 hours, I asked the Lord to make that time be Spirit-lead and fruitful. Oh, how He has and continues to answer that prayer! What a great God we serve :)P.S– my boys LOVE rooting for their mom. It is the coolest thing and makes me smile so wide.

  12. Judy Gordon Morrow December 5, 2013 at 10:39 am #

    I loved this, Tamela, as I think this wisdom applies to everyone, not just writers. In this day of information overload, we have to be intentional to process all that info and clear our brain–easier said than done! I’ve found that the activities we often view as mundane and even mindless play a wonderful role of restoring restfulness to our souls. God gave us Sabbath rest to be a gift not a constraint.

    Your last line made me lol! I do try to switch up my activities all during the day, but I can often spend too much time looking at my laptop screen. Getting outside even for a few minutes always refreshes me. Thanks for this good reminder today.

  13. karen ball December 5, 2013 at 10:48 am #

    Tamela, this is such an important part of the writing life. You have to recharge, or you’ll run empty. I find that just going out to the garden area and photographing birds and flowers, or throwing the ball for the doggies works wonders. And it’s good for the eyesight, too. Your poor eyes need a break from the computer screen!

  14. Rachel Muller December 5, 2013 at 11:25 am #

    How true! Recently I’ve had to sit down and plan out my writing schedule. This time of the year is especially difficult with Christmas. Having 4 kids means 4 different Christmas parties and programs for school. Then there are family functions and shopping…on top of every day life. I have decided to set work hours for my day to day writing and only write on the weekend if I have free time on Saturdays. Friday nights are off limits as we like to have movie nights with our kids.

    I always feel refreshed and ready to go back to it on Monday morning. Getting out of my office and into the real world brings fresh ideas and scenarios to my writing. But sometimes digging into a good book also opens my mind up to more!

  15. sally apokedak December 5, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    Love this post.

    And love that picture. If you added mountains behind that lake you would have the view from my old house in Alaska.

    Now that I’m in the much less-peaceful Atlanta area, I guard my time off like crazy, I have to get to the hiking trails or to the swimming pool several times a week or I feel exhausted and cranky. I am so much more productive when I get away from the computer for a bit.

  16. Joanne Sher December 6, 2013 at 8:48 am #

    Great post! I can’t get myself to take a day off EVERY week, but I do do a technology fast day every other week – and it is SUCH a benefit to me! (Coincidentally – if there is such a thing – I blogged about it today :D)

  17. Evinda Lepins December 6, 2013 at 9:06 am #

    Tamela,
    loved your post on this VERY important subject. I have just recently learned the value of this truth but for a different reason which leads to your truth of clearing the brain.
    I used to write my week’s blogs on Saturdays and Sundays and then after a loooooooong conviction of keeping a Sabbath, I finally began to earnestly write on Fridays and Saturdays so that Sundays are left for fellowship, family and fun.
    This has done more than clear my brain, but helped me be way more effective in ministry, admin issues as well as my writing!
    Thanks again for sharing.
    Blessings for an amazing weekend coming up!
    Evinda

  18. Tamela Hancock Murray December 6, 2013 at 9:38 am #

    All of your comments have uplifted and inspired me. Thank you so much for stopping by!

  19. J. L. Mbewe December 6, 2013 at 6:01 pm #

    This. I need this! I’ve tried to limit my time, set healthy boundaries, but somehow I find myself juggling too many things and not taking a break. And when I do, the anxiety kicks in. Ack!

    That said, I write during quiet time, when my little girl is napping (oldest is in pre-k) and then after bedtime. So I try to take care of all the other chores before those times. I try to guard my writing time as tightly as possible, but at the same time remembering what’s really important.

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