Athletes have an off-season and take days off from their workouts to keep from straining their muscles. Writers are exercising muscles as well–our creative brain–so the logic follows that we should also take rest days. I’ve noticed that not a lot of writers do this–the same way some athletes don’t. But athletes who work out every single day often find themselves injured more frequently. Your body needs rest, as does your brain. Here are a few reasons why:
1. Your muscles tire.
Despite our deadlines and our constant need to keep going, we find ourselves worn out when we’re doing the same activity every day. Your muscles need to recharge and heal or you get bored. One way to lessen the effects of this is to vary your writing activities. Write one day, edit the next, and maybe plot or outline or dream about your next book the day after that. Then start it over again. I strongly encourage you to also take a day that’s more passive–I take every Sunday (or I try) to do zero writing activities except to read a book. That lets my brain relax because it’s doing something familiar and low-stress while also subconsciously learning from the author I’m reading.
2. Your writing may suffer.
I’ve found that if I force myself to write every day without rest, my writing isn’t up to par. I find more excuses not to do it because “I’m just going to do the same thing tomorrow.” Plus, the quality is worse, too, because I’m tired. My muscles are overworked and are incapable of performing at maximum capacity. Now, on the days I’m supposed to write, I may still have to force myself to write, but that’s not because I’m worn out–it’s because sometimes I just have to sit my butt in the chair and do it. But my mind is at least rested.
3. Your overall health may suffer.
If you never take a day off, studies have shown that you’re more likely to be depressed or anxious. This is especially true for writers who also work day jobs or full-time writers who let writing bleed into their personal time. When you’re constantly under stress, your body is responding to that constantly, too. That can have a negative effect on your heart, muscles in your neck and shoulders, your lungs, and even your stomach and esophagus. The health problems associated with chronic stress are as numerous as the studies done on it!
Treat your body to a day off every once in a while. Find a schedule that works for you, your body, and your writing and stick to it. Often, the first couple of times are hard–I’ve been so conditioned to work, that the first two weeks, I had to force myself to relax! Find hobbies you enjoy (spending time with family, video games, crafts, other forms of art, eating–a personal favorite) and do those. If you have to, use them to distract yourself from writing. But above all, treat your body with respect. It keeps you going so you can write. Help keep it going, too!