Why Rest Is Critical To Become A Better Writer

by Sean D'Souza

Every day at a certain point in my day my brain is exhausted. And this tiredness has nothing to do with writing. It’s rather got something to do with walking. And listening.

And yes, let me explain.

Every day I take a brisk walk for about an hour. And I almost always have my iPod and I’m almost always listening to a course, some educational stuff, or learning a language.

But about 45 minutes into the walk, something weird happens. My brain shuts down. No matter how much I try to focus, whole sections of the audio seem to drop out. I get easily distracted. I try harder than ever to concentrate, but despite my best efforts the information seems to have no hold on me.

My brain is overwhelmed with information

And it doesn’t even have to be new information. New information is extremely exhausting, because my brain has to work out:
1) the relevance of the information.
2) the applications to my every day life.
3) how to use the information in the right manner (and not goof it
up).

This mental calisthenics takes enormous computing power. And by the 45 minute mark, I’m exhausted.

But when I go through the same information the next day I’m refreshed

And this is because my brain has rested. And it’s had time to absorb, sort out and tidy the information into tiny little brain cupboards. Now I start to build on the previous day’s work. And so every day, a new layer is added.

And this brings me to writing articles daily instead of once a week.

You are wasting your time if you try and write once a week

When you’re learning new concepts, the brain needs to struggle and sizzle a bit every day. Then it needs a rest. The next day it builds on that information it learned the previous day. The frying and sizzling goes on.

And then it rests again. However, if the brain goes through working on one factor day after day, for a week or so, it learns on a daily basis. It adds to the knowledge, so that by the time the week has ended it’s pretty confident about the new learning.

So let’s take an example…

Let’s say you’re in the Psychotactics Article Writing Course. And on the first week, you only work with creating structure by answering the questions: How, what, why, when etc.

You keep at it, day after day. The first few days are pure torture. Then something seems to settle. By week three or four, the structure issues concerning what, why, when etc. doesn’t faze you at all.

Nope, you’ve got something else that drives you nuts. Like creating angles. Or creating drama. Or flow.

If your brain tries to take on all of the concepts together it goes into a state of confusion

But if it handles one form of structure a week, day after day, then you know what happens, right?

Yes, you get better. And the reason you get better is because the brain gets time to rest. It gets time to resolve glitches. It gets time to store. It gets time to layer the information without having the burden of learning and applying it all.

But surely you don’t have time to write every day

You probably don’t. And I don’t. And no one has time to write every day. But we believe we can indeed have one big chunk of time in the week, and that’s when we’ll get things done.

And of course you know what comes next. Not only will that chunk of time come and go, but you’ll be under more pressure than ever. And you’re more confused than ever.

Setting aside even fifteen minutes will get you to write three-four paragraphs. It doesn’t matter if they’re crappy paragraphs. It doesn’t matter if the headline stinks. It doesn’t matter if there’s no flow.

What matters is that you do the every day discipline. What matters is that you’re giving your brain the best chance to succeed by giving it a break between successive sessions.

Of course there’s a story why I started writing once a day

At one point I wasn’t writing once a week. I was writing once a month. And writing was torture. I’d struggle over an article for a day or two, and there was no guarantee that I’d complete the article.

And I’ll tell you I wasn’t having any fun at all. I did it because I had to. I did it because it was helping our business get more clients. But I hated the process of writing the article.

Of course once it was done, I’d preen around the words and be all happy with my work of ‘art’, but the process, arrrrrrrgh I hated the process. So I did something quite weird.

I started writing more often

I started up a membership site at 5000bc.com. There was absolutely no content at 5000bc when I first started. So in a moment of bravado I promised the members five articles a week. And though I was petrified about meeting this deadline, I went about it systematically and turned out an article or two a day.

Most of the early articles weren’t long and structured. They were short —a bit like blog posts. They had interesting pieces of
information, but there was nothing dramatic about the style and structure. And then an amazing thing happened.

I was able to write five-seven articles a week with more ease than an article a month.

It didn’t make sense. Surely I was going to run out of material, I thought. Surely that stupid Writer’s Block would head-butt me
sooner than later, I thought.

But instead my brain took over. The discipline of writing every day forced my brain to think of innovative ways to have an endless run of content and no fear of writing whatsoever.

Your brain is a lot like my brain

It works. Then it shuts down.
Then it needs its siesta, so it can wake up refreshed and live to write another day.

Try the discipline of writing every day, and resting every day. Not because I say so, but because without it there’s only struggle and
frustration.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Melinda | WAHM Biz Builder July 9, 2009 at 4:56 am

Studies on learning have shown that the brain is only capable of focussing for around 40-50 minutes at a time – your experience is confirming that!

This time limit is one of the reasons trainers are recommended to break their lessons into 50 minutes and then have a break for participants. People just can’t take in endless information.

Reply

Sean DSouza July 9, 2009 at 6:10 am

Often just a break can create ‘rest’. So while this article was mostly about writing, the same concept can be used anywhere. In the Brain Audit audio for instance, I put in several rest situations. This is done with music. In my presentations I often have a break in the middle of a presentation with an activity. In teleconferenes we do the same thing. It all helps the audience to get back into things and re-focus.

Reply

Gabor Wolf July 9, 2009 at 11:52 am

Do you sometimes have the “House MD moment”?

You’d concentrate endlessly, trying to solve a problem. Learn, read reference materials, think, brainstorm – and nothing.

And then a funny thing happens:

You go and do something entirely irrelevant to the subject, e.g. watch Battlestar Galactica or read Jaff Abbott,

And that’s when the solution hits you! Probably has to do with the resting of the brain, allowing to defocus, absorb the question, and stop – then restart, focus, and solve the problem at hand.

Reply

Sean DSouza July 9, 2009 at 1:42 pm

Yes, that happens all the time. The brain doesn’t really think well under pressure. All of our greatest moments in history have been when someone is goofing up under the apple tree and the apple falls on their heads :)

The brain merely implements under pressure. Most ideas and concepts come when the brain is relaxed.

Reply

Mitch Ferguson July 9, 2009 at 6:21 pm

Sean, excellent article. It’s just what I needed to hear at this point. Even though I know it, it seems that I need reminding. Thanks for that!

Reply

Phillip Crum July 10, 2009 at 8:30 am

Excellent material.

Reply

jan geronimo October 20, 2009 at 10:34 pm

Just the right kind of advice I need. I do lots of blog reading and staying online doing this and that – all into the wee hours of the morning. Next day comes and it’s my schedule to post, I have nothing to day.

I must learn to disengage and do something totally unrelated to blogging.

Developing the ability to write articles every day – that’s very interesting. Will try it. With lots of rest periods in between.

Reply

kathy robson November 23, 2009 at 5:28 pm

I tend to find that i can be worrying over a problem and get so tired trying to work it out that I just have to go to sleep only to be woken at some ungodly hour with a solution …That can’t be put into place until working hour…Now that is truly frustrating …

Reply

Sean DSouza November 23, 2009 at 10:06 pm

Or you get woken up…like I was woken up today.
It’s 2:55am. And believe me, it’s no fun.

I’m a great writer at 4am. Lousy at 3.

Reply

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