Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Ten things to do on your day off from writing

The famous “day off,” heralded among the working population as a day to rest and catch up on real life, is primarily a day to recharge and keep that spark to continue working alive. Despite the pressure on writers to write every day, we are not exempt from taking a “day off” from our work. I have found that taking a day off from the writing work is a great way to recharge, as well as get my desk back in order.

Take one day out of your “work week” to spend your normal “writing time” with family and friends. But if the guilt monster is tapping your shoulder to do something productive with your extra time, here are ten ideas:

1.  Organize your clip file.

If you are an unpublished writer, use this tip as a means of sorting through your writing samples.  As for published writers, your clip file contains all of your published work.  Having your clips sorted out in different file folders or in folders on your hard drive will make it easier to reach for those “relevant clips” editors ask for.  The typical work week can be too distracting or busy for a writer to take the time to put a copy of their recently published work into its designated folder, so this might be a good thing to do on your day off. Label your folders with subjects such as “Parenting” or “Writing” and use stickers or highlighters as identifiers, if you wish. 

2.  Take stock of your supplies.

The last thing you want to have happen is run out of ink when printing your requested article. Use your day off as a chance to take stock of both your office and mailing supplies.  Have an extra printer cartridge handy?  Enough mailing envelopes of sufficient size?  Extra postage, pens, markers and paper clips?  You wouldn’t want to stop writing because you ran out of ink in your pen or miss a deadline because of insufficient postage. This tip saves trips.

3.  Make a list of magazines and publishers to query.

Keep on file a list of magazines to query for the week. A good idea is to note two or three articles you can pitch to this magazine.  Should the first be rejected, you can pitch your second to them in your reply. This is a great way to focus your next work week and note what research you will soon be conducting.

4.  Write outlines, character sketches and edit any previous writings.

Creating outlines for articles you plan to write is a good idea should an editor suddenly reply to your query that they want more information on what you plan to cover. This will also help you focus your research.  Creating character sketches for stories you plan to write are a great way to get to know your characters better and know where you want to take them in your story. Finally, editing your previously unpublished writing can help you look for weak spots, throw in some rewriting you forgot about last time and it also offers you a chance to get more ideas for future work.

5.  Jot down all of your ideas.

I can’t count the number of times I saved an idea for “later” only to forget about it. Ideas have a tendency of disappearing faster than they appeared, so write them down as soon as you can.

6.  Go for a long walk.

Enjoy a stroll down the street, at the park, at the zoo, museum or mall. Observe everything around you:  the sights, the smells, the sounds and feelings. What are people talking about?  What are children doing?  How does the weather make you feel?  Try something new, such as that Thai restaurant you never got around to visiting or that hiking trail you always wondered about.

7. Catch up on email.

When your life gets super-busy, staying on top of email can be difficult. But when you take one day out of the week as an “off day” from work, this can be a great time to catch up on all of those emails cluttering your inbox. Respond to the personal emails and read only the important emails you don’t want your week to be without. If you find it hard to delete some emails but don’t have time to read them, create a “Read Later” folder and stick them in there. Just don’t forget about them!

8.  Catch up on reading.

Too often, writers spend more time writing than they do reading. And reading what’s out there helps writers stay current, informed and enlightened. Use your normal “writing time” to enjoy a good book, finish reading a magazine article or catch up on events with your local newspaper.

8. Clean out your desk.

Every weekend, I make it a point to tackle the desk and remove files or papers that I no longer need for current projects. I add any supplies I am running low on and get rid of the nonessentials. If you don’t have a desk (though it’s highly recommended for every writer!) then reorganize your work station so you’ll be ready to get back to work tomorrow.

10. Make a list.

What sort of goals remain unmet? What kinds of things are you struggling with right now? Take some time to think about any current problems or struggles you’ve been dealing with and write about each one. Do you need to find a person to interview? Or is there an article that needs more research? Take stock of these issues so you’ll be more focused on what to do when you get back to work.

The reminder to write every day can turn into stressful pressure for the average writer. Don’t feel guilty about taking a day off from writing; you are doing yourself and your sense of creativity a huge favor. The day will soon end and it will again be time to pull out that notebook or turn on the computer. Only this time, you will feel more refreshed and your creative spark will stay alive.

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