One way to avoid burnout and improve your writing productivity

My “When Do you Find Time to Write” article has been a very popular post among writers.

I was recently on a “Productivity for Writers” panel at a writing conference, and as I was preparing for that panel, I jotted down my top tips for writing productivity. You can download those tips here! 

An interesting thing happened at the conference. Yes, we discussed daily routines, tools of the trade, challenges, and stress-busters. All of the things that you would expect. At the end, as the moderator was wrapping up, she said something to the effect that the biggest thing you could do for your writing productivity was to write every day. This had not been discussed by the panel, and since it was part of the wrap-up, there was no opportunity to discuss it further.

Myth: You must write every day

I have seen this advice given many times. On the surface, it makes perfect sense. The more you practice something, the better you get. The more days you write, the more writing you will get done. If you are writing every day, you are less likely to lose the thread of what you started, since there is no more than a day between sessions.

But here’s the thing. I don’t write every day.

When I am writing a first draft, I write Monday through Saturday, and I take Sunday off.

And when I am not writing a first draft, then Monday through Saturday I am reviewing, editing, rewriting, researching, formatting, publishing, promoting, etc. Still ‘writing business’ tasks even if it is not virgin copy.

But do you notice the pattern? No writing work on Sunday. Is it because I don’t have enough work to fill seven days a week? I don’t feel like writing every day?

Not at all. I have more than enough work to fill seven days. And when I was writing as a hobby, I spent a good amount of time writing on Sundays. I love to write; it is relaxing and enjoyable. Sunday is the one day a week that I don’t go to my day job, work out, or run errands, so it is naturally a good day for writing.

When I decided to start publishing and to write as a business, that changed. All my life, I have kept the Sabbath. The fourth commandment says, “Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work.” So when writing was only a hobby for me, I felt comfortable with writing on the Sabbath. Yes, I did plenty of other things to observe the Lord’s day, including church attendance and family time, but I also rested from my labours by writing.

But when I started writing as a business, I felt that if I wanted the Lord to bless my labours, I needed to abstain from working on the Sabbath. So, as difficult as it was (and is,) for me to do, I resolved not to write on Sunday or to do other writing/publishing work. I am not always successful; sometimes I approve a digital proof on Createspace and place an order for a physical proof so that I can publish a book earlier in the week; sometimes I pick up one of my books to read for recreation and end up noticing a typo that needs to be fixed; sometimes I have a great idea for a book or promo and need to jot my thoughts down before I lose them. But for the more part, I have been successful in not letting my writing business encroach on the Sabbath.

But why do you care? Here are some benefits that I have found from not working one day a week. I truly believe that “the Sabbath was made for man,” and God knew what he was talking about when he said to rest from our labours for one day out of seven:

  1. First and foremost – avoiding burnout. Working at the pace that I do, putting in as many hours as I do, I would run a huge risk of burnout and reduced immunity to illness if I did not take a day of rest.
  2. Getting away from my writing for a day, much like taking a shower or going out for a walk, helps to clear my mind. My subconscious starts to wonder why I’m not creating anything and starts producing some great new ideas.
  3. A Saturday-night cut-off provides a deadline for the week. Working against a deadline increases productivity for many people. There are a lot of times when I am tired Saturday night, and if I did not have that deadline, I would just put my work to the side to tackle the next day. With the deadline, knowing that I won’t be able to get back to it until Monday, I have a bit more of a push to get things done and squared away by bedtime Saturday.
  4. Family time. Putting aside work for one day leaves time for worship, for service, for going for a walk in the park, or for preparing a special meal. It is easy for me to get so wrapped up in work that I don’t leave the time for my loved ones or for nurturing myself in other ways.
  5. Making Sunday a day of rest and renewal means that I can start the week out with more energy. I look forward to kicking off my writing on Monday. I am eager to start my week and to get back to my stories. Rather than feeling worn thin by an unrelenting schedule, I am ready to get going again.

Do I still observe the Sabbath during Nanowrimo or other deadline-driven projects? You bet. When I schedule my writing time and calculate my writing goals, it is with a six-day week in mind rather than seven days.

I truly believe that what I ‘lose’ by not writing on the Sabbath is given back to me during the week in increased productivity. By taking the time to renew and refresh myself, I am a better, more productive writer than I would be if I wrote every day.

Tell me what you think!

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