Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Better to Push Through or Take a Break?

So there's something that happens after you've been writing for a while. Even a short while. You finally get some words going, you get in the flow, it's coming, and then all of the sudden, it happens.

You hit the wall.

That's what runners call it anyway, and I think it's an apt metaphor. Because its an abrupt stop, ramming the momentum you had head on into brick. 

It happens to me every few hundred words. I'll get three or four hundred words down and then finish a scene or get pulled away by my wonderfully distracting sister or mindlessly clicking onto Pinterest. Then I'm stuck. The flow stops flowing. (By the way I think minimizing distractions i.e. Pinterest is key to pushing back the wall and something I'm going to try to do better at).

I'm pretty sure it happens this way for everyone. Maybe a lot of you can go a lot further than me without hitting the wall, but it happens eventually, right?

If not--if you never come up against The Wall--please tell me your magic secret? Please???

Anyway. When you get to this point, what do you think is the best thing to do?

The way I see it, there's two options. Either you sit there and push until you've broken through the wall, or you go away and use your mental powers elsewhere until the wall has gone away. Which do you think is the best thing to do?

On the one hand, we are WRITERS DANG IT and WRITERS WRITE and no dumb ol wall is going to stop us. On the other hand, sometimes it is a FREAKING THICK WALL and you don't want the writing to sound forced anyway and its Just. Not. Coming.

After some thought, I think the answer I've come up with is that neither approach will work in every situation. I think sometimes the wall isn't going to go away on its own and you have to push through. Other times no amount of shoving will budge the stupid thing, and you have to take a breather or its going to stay there like a stubborn mule.

The pattern that I think works best for me personally is this: Usually the first wall or two I come to aren't super thick. They're definitely there and they leave me staring blankly for a while, but I can push through and get another few hundred words down. Then a wall will come that really throws me off and I start feeling like my butt is beginning to fuse to the chair anyway so its time for me to at least step out onto the balcony for a while and probably get something to eat. Sometimes it takes until the next day for the wall to go away, and sometimes it still takes a little forcing, but if I make myself sit down the next day and get started, the words will eventually start flowing again.

That's how I've seen it working in my own head. Anybody else have clearer ideas or a better approach? Do you think it's better to push through or take a break?

Sarah Allen


  1. I would love to know the secret to hurdling that wall as well. Like you, I finish a scene & bam-o! Face meet wall.

    Usually I take a little bit of time to dream about the next scene & jot down notes so it will flow WHEN I finally sit down to write it.

    That's WHEN my girls allow me to sit. ;)

  2. I've read advice to write for 90 min, then take a break, do something different, then invest another 90. I'm not always that consistent or dedicated for 90 minutes. (Turning off the internet would help!)I think taking a creative break-- something that is not writing but still feeds my creativity is ideal (like practicing an instrument, putting on music and dancing or singing, etc) but I don't always take that time either.

  3. I used to hit the wall and stop; now sometimes I will go on to write a different scene, or do some research. Or take a break.

    Breaks are good, as long as they are SHORT breaks. Otherwise I will read "just one chapter" that turns into half a book, and looky there, too late to do more writing!

  4. That's a tough one! I firmly believe in BIC (butt in chair) but there's also a place for a nice refreshing walk to clear your head. I guess it depends how long it takes to get back to it. Stopping for the day is fine. For the week? Eh, not so much. I try to write anyway. But there are times it doesn't happen!

  5. I am so bad at staying in my chair. I take way too many breaks. I wish I could write 90 minutes straight.

  6. Walk away physically but keep going in your head. Visualize the scene, try out some dialogue (out loud), and see what happens. Often something will work its way to the service and send you running back to your computer.

  7. Ah, the wall. Yeah, I get to a point where I hit it. Often it's because I'm tired and need more sleep (or caffeine) to wake up and push through.

  8. Oh man... walls are the WORST... I usually just have to walk away for a while... and that helps. Time away from the manuscript is the best editing tool!!!

  9. hahaha - LOVE the pic!

    I think it depends on the wall. If it's something small that you can first-draft (bad-draft) or [fill-in-the-bracket-later] your way through and come back to later, then push through. If it's something that's going to affect the rest of the story depending on what you write, then stop and take a break.

    I find that doing something totally unrelated (dishes, laundry, reading for pleasure) helps. Often, the answer/inspiration will hit me in the middle of doing something mundane. Or, in the case of reading, something in the other story will spark an idea (even if the stories/scenes are completely different), and I'll get unstuck.

    Oh, and I get WAYYYY more writing done if I close every tab in my browser except :P

    Thanks for visiting my blog. :)

  10. I go for a walk, get a drink of water, or go lay down...then it all comes back. Computer games and such...I don't really do. Social media...I have a set amount of time I give to it and that's it.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  11. I think you are right, less distractions would help.

  12. i write matter what...does not mean i will use what i wrote...or post it...but i write daily...its a discipline...a habit...and in editing i might only keep one sentence from a bad day but bad day stuff may be seeds for good day stuff....

  13. As you say, I think it depends on the situation. I tend to work on something else for a while and when I get back to it, my head is much clearer :)

  14. I've been having this problem quite a lot recently. I know what I want to write, but I don't feel very motivated to keep writing and get easily distracted. Most days I power through (slowly) but often I grind to a halt and suddenly I'm in the kitchen going through cupboards.


  15. When it happens to me I move onto another project for a while, or perhaps do some editing. That seems to help.

  16. I completely agree that there isn't always one solution when you hit the wall. Sometimes it's just the lazy part of your brain whispering, "Go to Facebook, you know you want to!" and other times, the words randomly dry up. I do like to take a break when it happens because sometimes even something simple like taking a short walk around the house can make the difference! Sometimes, it takes a LOT longer.

  17. I've done both, depending on how burned out I am with a story. I think it's best to take a break, step away from the laptop and do something fun. Then return, presumably refreshed, and carry on.

  18. I'm still learning what works best for me. I find writing something, anything, is better than nothing each and every day. If I get stuck while in the middle of writing I get up for a bit and do some yoga or sit in the yard.


I absolutely love hearing from you! Thank you so, so much for your thoughts and comments, they really do make my day. Consider yourself awesome. Also, I do my best to respond to every comment within 24 hours, so I invite you to come back and continue the conversation :)

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