A Major Key to Writing Well—Taking Breaks

A lot of people ask authors about their habitual patterns for enhancing their literary capabilities. I am by no means an old or wizened writer. However, I have gleaned one very useful technique in improving my writing ability: it involves something very simple and perhaps less arduous than some might expect. The technique is simply this: take breaks.

You may notice when you read a book, you start to lag after awhile, maybe after forty minutes or so. The same is true for writing, perhaps even more so, such that you may only want to write a half page of your crowning essay or book over a half-hour period. As a rule, I tend to stick to about that figure, rarely, if ever, exceeding the half-hour mark for penning out my ideas.

I was hardly surprised a year later after I adopted this technique when I read the same idea in my course work for editing at Berkeley Extension. In the course, they said the best way to edit, and one often employed at publishing houses, is to work for about 45 minutes, taking 15-minute breaks between each session. This ensures that the so-called “lag effect” doesn’t kick in, and you don’t slosh right through a few errors in the manuscript without thinking about what you are doing.

I can personally attest to this, as I’ve noticed my editing errors will increase after an hour or so. This is even more the case with writing, where it seems the mentation and creative process become even more involved.

Sometimes, I’ve found, the first 15 minutes amounts to my best writing period.

All of this is a basic guideline, of course. Times may vary depending upon various personality types, and you might want to experiment with your own boundaries. I’ve also found it good to take more than just a 15-minute break, maybe even up to 40 minutes, between writing attempts.





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