Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Write Foot Forward: Rest

You think you can run 12 hrs straight? I doubt it. Same with writing. And even if you could, the quality would suffer.

Let’s talk about rest, baby. (*sung in manner of boys to men). No really, let’s talk about resting as a writer. It’s important and it’s something most of us forget.

I was reminded how important rest is when I started running again. A recent article in Runners World stated this perfectly: Sleep isn’t a luxury – it’s a training tool. That’s right, all training, even training geared to elite runners, include rest periods. And the same is true with writing.

You must rest. It’s okay, even the mega-zillionaire famous authors rest. It’s a fact. You may hate the idea of resting but you can’t escape the truth. Your body needs rest to refuel, revive, and focus. Your thinking, “But I know so-in-so author who never rests. Stephen King writes a bazillion pages a day, every day, and he doesn’t rest. So neither will I.”

Here’s the thing, everyone rests. Even Mr. King rests after he completes his fifty-bazillion pages. He takes the rest of the day off. Or he goes for a walk, or whatever. But he stops doing one activity and changes gears. He rests. Some elite runners practice twice a day. They run in the morning. They rest. They run at night. Did you see where I typed ‘They rest.’ Yeah, they take time off.

The amount of time varies from person to person and level to level but the universal truth remains: everyone rests. You should too. And for the biggest bang for your rest-buck, you should plan/schedule/protect your rest time like you plan/schedule/protect your creative time. It’s just as important.

Here’s the key to rest: Be Kind to Yourself.

Most training sites for runners planning their first distance run, be it a 5k, 10k, Half, or Full Marathon, insist that if you feel the need to slow down and walk – Do it! Most running advice columns will stress again and again how you should listen to your body. If you have a nagging pain, stop. If you have a chronically sore muscle, rest. If you get a headache 4 miles into a long run drink more water, if that doesn’t help, stop.

It’s important to listen to your body in running because your body is the tool. It’s the machine that gets the job done. But it’s easy to beat yourself up for a failed long run or an extra rest day. You’re a passionate, disciplined athlete, how could this happen to you? If you trained better this wouldn’t happen. You don’t see famous runners taking rest breaks during their marathons, do you?

Sound familiar?

It should. Only in writing, it’s more like “I’ll never write as well as her,” or “So-in-so writes every day. If I don’t do the same I’ll never make it,” or “I didn’t meet my daily word count so I am a pile of suck.” As writers, our bodies, minds, and hearts are the tools we use to get the job done. It’s important to be kind to yourself during the creative process and to allow for the ups and downs that occur naturally.

Mark Twain said it best when he said “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” When you belittle yourself, stop, breathe, rest and remember to be kind. You, too, can be great.

Want more on rest? Check out this post about sleep as a tool

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