Step Away from Your Desk

Recently I discovered something about my writing routine purely by accident.

Lately I’ve been working less and less with paper copies of my manuscripts. Over time, I had accumulated a huge number of pages–mostly of completed novels–with no space to store them. I couldn’t reuse or recycle them fast enough. Sound familiar? In the past, I would occasionally print out 10-20 pages of a WIP to revise manually when I hit a rough patch, a practice which also added to the burgeoning stacks of paper.

But I had gotten away from doing that. Like many writers, I’ve been revising primarily at my computer. A few weeks ago, I woke up at 4:00 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep. Finally, around 5, I got up, made some coffee, and sat down at my computer. I felt sluggish. Getting a decent sentence onto the page was a struggle. The writing lacked energy, as did the writer. But I forged ahead until breakfast. I could hardly face the prospect of tackling the project after I’d eaten, but I eventually wandered into my office and sat back down at my desk. Unfortunately, nothing had changed.

A walk is often a surefire way to kickstart my brain in this type of situation, but I simply couldn’t summon the energy.

After a few minutes, I decided to print out the chapter I was working on and read it out loud. I plunked down in my “comfortable” chair, lap desk and pen at the ready, and got to work. And couldn’t believe what a difference that made! Was it because breakfast actually had restored my non-functioning brain cells? Had the caffeine from the morning’s coffee finally kicked in? What had changed?

After mulling it over, I decided the simple act of removing myself from the desk to a different location had been key, even it was only a mere five feet away. Reading out loud helped too. Making notes, even doing some rewrites manually, also seemed to breathe new energy into my writing that day. I had gotten the same burst of energy from working in my neighborhood cafe on occasion–I had simply forgotten that.

Whether your usual writing spot is at a desk, in a coffee shop, in the library, on your bed, or curled up with your laptop on the couch, try changing location when you’re having a non-productive day. It might make all the difference.

What works for you when you’re  having a frustrating writing day?

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