S01E04: Five Ways To Know If You Need A Break

This transcript has been adjusted to correct minor mistakes and provide you with the most up-to-date addresses for all the referenced links…

Hello, and welcome to Season 1 Episode 4 of The Writer’s Everything. Today we’re going to be discussing taking a break from your writing, and the ever-important question of how long is too long? But first, let’s go over the writing term of the week. This week’s term is “character archetype”.

Character Archetype

A character archetype is a typical example of a character appears over and over again in literature, plays, television, and film. These archetypes often represent universal patterns of human nature.

As writers, we use character archetypes as tools. They allow us to gain a deeper understanding of our characters, and thus to be able to portray them accurately and authentically. They give us the chance to identify what motivates our characters and to flesh out how they would react in any given situation.

A quick Google search will provide you with all sorts of different lists, created by geniuses in the fields of psychology, which detail varied lists of character archetypes. Some of those lists have eight archetypes. Some have twelve. Some have 100.

When learning about character archetypes, the goal isn’t to be able to memorize whole lists of a dozen or more different examples. Rather, these lists are meant to help give us as writers the resources we need to identify our characters, their habits, traits, and most probable courses of action.

Now let’s consider one extremely common example of a character archetype: The mentor. Over and over again, in innumerable stories, we find a sage old individual who provides the main character of the hero’s journey with the information they need to complete their quest. More often than not, the mentor will sacrifice themselves so that the hero can go on living. From a story-telling point of view, this is so that the hero is able to have room to grow into a competent and proficient character in their own right.

Well-known mentors include Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars IV: A New Hope, Morpheus from The Matrix, Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings, and Albus Dumbledore from the Harry Potter franchise.

What types of archetypes do you like to take advantage of in your writing? Let me know on Twitter @QJ_author.

Five Ways To Know If You Need A Break

Ok. So now let’s discuss a task that all of us will have to complete at some point or another in our writing careers: Putting the pen down and taking a break.

It doesn’t matter how energetic you are as a writer, or how often inspiration hits you, or how big your dreams of success are. At some point or another, there will inevitably come a time when you need to get a little R&R.

“Say it isn’t so,” says you. And with good reason. You don’t want to take a break. You don’t want to lose your momentum. What if you can’t get back in the groove? What if your break of a couple days becomes a couple weeks, which become a couple years, and you never write again?

Is that a completely invalid concern? No, actually it isn’t. Just like with a car, it takes more energy and effort to move from a dead stop than it does to just coast along at 65. Still, anyone who has gone on a long car ride knows that every once in a while, they need to get out and stretch their legs, use the restroom, and fuel up so they can continue on their journey.

But how do you know when you need to take a break? If you even manage to convince yourself to put down the pen, or the keyboard, as is the case, how long can you leave it sitting on your desk before it’s too long? 

Well, unsurprisingly, the answer isn’t completely black-and-white. There is no one size fits all situation that will provide just the right amount of rest and relaxation for every author in every imaginable situation. But there are things that we should all keep in mind in order to help us gauge when we should throw in the towel, and when we should pick it back up.

So let’s briefly go over five factors we need to take into account when deciding when to take a break and how long it should last.

First, we want to make sure we are able to gain objectivity.

When you’re wading through an endless forest of words, it is quite possible to get lost in it, and to lose sight of the big picture for the trees. If you’re worried that the objective of your writing is getting muddled in your own mind, then a break may be exactly what you need to help you reset.

Taking a day, a week, or even a month off can help you to gain a fresh perspective on the projects you’re working on. If there was a challenge that you were facing that you couldn’t find any way around, then taking time to yourself could allow your subconscious the opportunity to tackle the situation from a new perspective. More often than not, we think of the perfect solution for our problems the second we stop thinking about them.

Second, we want to be able to refill our creativity.

Even if you aren’t having any specific problems, yet, taking a break could still be of benefit to you. Creating an artistic expression is like writing with an ink pen. You can write and write and write and never have a problem until your ink suddenly runs out, when you least expect it.

As writers, it’s our job to refill our own creativity. We have to perform activities that will replenish everything that we lose to the page every day we choose to write.

How can you refill your creativity? One of the most important things for you to do is to take in more than you put out. You have to enjoy the creations of other artists, including music, poems, short stories, novels, television shows, movies, and more.

Doing so does more than give you an opportunity to turn off your brain for a while. It allows you to absorb new memories and experiences, often about situations and aspects of existence that you never would have experienced personally in your entire life. After all, how often do you rob a bank, or fly into outer space? But you’re able to portray those situations to a passable degree because of depictions of them you’ve seen in other media.

Third, we need to avoid losing the flow.

As authors, there are times when we feel like we’re virtually unstoppable. We write and write and write, and everything comes out perfect. We bang out a couple thousand words a day and finish a novel in a month. And it’s not even NaNoWriMo.

If you find yourself in such a situation, then it’s more than likely that you don’t actually need to take a break. In fact, taking a break could very well do the complete opposite of what you want it to do. It could throw off your rhythm.

If that happens, you’ll find it requires much more energy and effort to get you back on track than what you managed to save up during your break. So really, in cases like that, taking a break is worse than pointless. It’s actually counterproductive and wasteful.

Fourth, we need to determine how long we can go without.

As a creative individual, you no doubt understand exactly what I mean. How long can you go without expressing yourself artistically? Writing provides countless authors with fulfillment and meaning in their lives. That being the case, giving it up for any length of time could have a drastic effect on your subconscious self. If you begin to feel harmful effects from holding in your creativity, then you should immediately discontinue your break and return to your artistic outlet.

And fifth, we have to know whether or not we want to make a career of our writing.

Ask yourself this question: Do you want your writing to be a hobby, or do you want it to be a career? If you’re only interested in writing as a hobby, then chances are that taking a break won’t have that great of a negative effect on you.

If you want to turn writing into a career, however, and publish your work, whether it’s in novels, short stories, or articles for other websites, then you need to be careful with your breaks. To have success in the writing industry, you have to be determined and self-motivated. You have to be able to meet the demands and timelines of your dream job, or your dream job will always be just out of your reach.

That’s not even to mention the simple equation that the more you write, the more opportunities you have to succeed. Very few authors manage to get a career going by chipping away at writing one novel for ten to twenty years, followed by five to ten more years of pitching it to publishers.

Just by writing one novel a year, you increase your chances of success by a factor of ten, and along the way you gain all sorts of knowledge and experience that improve your writing and lead you to the creation of bigger and better things.

So should you take a break? How long is too long? The answer, put simply, is it depends entirely on you. It’s up to your situation whether you need a break or not. You have to decide, using factors such as the five I mentioned in this week’s podcast, whether a break would improve or impair your progress as an author. And even more importantly, you have to make sure to do what’s best for your own well-being and for the well-being of your loved ones.

What was your longest break from writing, and how did it make you feel? Let me know on Twitter @QJ_author.

Character Development Question

Ok. So now it’s time for this week’s character development question, which is:

Does the character have any aliases? If so, why?

There are many different situations where a character may be known by an alias. This could be in place of their actual name, or may simply be more well-known than their name. The reasons for a character to do this are varied, and they could include hiding from others, maintaining an air of mystery, branding themselves (such as in the music industry), or protecting those they love.

For example, in The Lord of the Rings, the innkeeper of the Prancing Pony has know idea what Aragorn’s real name is, but he knows that people call him Strider.

In the DC Universe, both Bruce Wayne and Batman are equally well-known names, but very few people in Gotham are aware of the fact that Batman is Bruce’s crime-fighting alter-ego.

In Star Wars IV: A New Hope, Obi-Wan Kenobi takes on the alias of Ben so that he won’t be recognized as the infamous Jedi master.

In The Lego Movie, Wyldstyle is shown to change her name at regular intervals because of her own insecurities.

Writing Prompt of the Week

And finally, we’re going to have our writing prompt of the week. This week’s prompt is to write about a smart house that knows what you want before you even want it. How does its precognition affect the development of your actual desires? Let your imagination go wild, and be sure to share your resulting work with me on Twitter @QJ_Author.

Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode of The Writer’s Everything podcast. If you’d like to read a transcript of this episode, you can find it at TheWritersEverything.org/transcripts. If you’d like to listen to future episodes, be sure to subscribe on whatever platform you’re currently listening on, and be sure to give it a rating while you’re at it to let me know what you think of the podcast. The Writer’s Everything is also available as a free downloadable magazine. If you’d like to read it, simply go to TheWritersEverything.org/magazine, and download the issue of your choice. If you’d like access to exclusive bonus content, such as my list and review of the top Character Name Generators on the web, you can go to TheWritersEverything.org/newsletter. If you’d like to support the podcast, you can do so at Patreon.com/QJMartin. For your convenience, all the referenced links will also be in the show notes.

Listen to more of Season 1 of tWE.


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