Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Time Off is Rarely Time Wasted—Even for a Writer

by Edie Melson

Time off is a GOOD idea.
I’m not always the brightest bulb in the batch, and what others learn quickly sometimes takes years to sink in. But one thing I have learned is this:

Time off is rarely time wasted.

My natural tendency has always been all or nothing. I go and go and go . . . and then I drop. Not really the healthiest way to do life.

I think part of the reason is that I’ve always equated down time with wasted time. But I’ve discovered that downtime, instead of being wasted, is when those create reserves are refilled and renewed.

It’s really hard to get water from a dry well.

In recent years I’ve worked hard to rewire my automatic responses. I’ve forced myself to build time off into my schedule. And I’ve been a much healthier and happier version of me.

Here are some of the things I’ve implemented that work for me
Weekends off are now the norm, not the exception!
  • Weekends off are now the norm, NOT the exception. I just function best on Monday, if I have Saturday and Sunday for rest and relaxation. That means little or no time on the computer on those days. I’ve learned that if it’s urgent I’ll get a text or a phone call. Everything else can wait. One other thing I’ve learned by taking weekends off—if I don’t, pretty soon EVERY day feels like Monday.
  • Families come first. My good friend, Lynn Huggins Blackburn said it best. “Sometimes writers don’t write—they bake cookies.” I wouldn’t trade the years I had as mommy to three growing boys. No best-selling book in the world would have been worth passing up that time. The same comes with hanging out with my parents now. Time is limited, and I try to never forget that.
  • Relationships matter, and beyond that, they need nurturing to survive. This goes beyond the obvious family relationships. I’m talking about friendships here. Time spent going to lunch, or on the phone. By spending time with the people I care about, I show them they are valued.
Yes, this is Scarlett's dress from Gone With the Wind.
  • Field trips are time well spent. I took time to visit a museum over the Christmas holidays. No one could go with me, but I just wanted to go. I couldn’t have given myself a better gift. Take time to explore the cool places nearby, you won’t regret it, I promise!
  • It’s okay (even encouraged) to have hobbies that have NOTHING to do with writing and/or reading. Many of you know I love to knit. I also love to do other crafty things. Beyond that, I have a group of craft-minded women that I meet with occasionally. We sit together and work on projects and creativity seems to just hang in the room. And none of these women are writers. But I always come away with a renewed enthusiasm for writing.
How about you? What do you like to do to unwind? Share your tips for renewing and relaxing in the comments section below. Who knows, we may decide to visit a museum together and have a cup of coffee!

Don’t forget to join the conversation!


  1. Absolutely right, Edie. Spending time with others trumps everything. It's the relationships in our lives that matter most.

  2. I like to garden and crochet (not at the same time, mind you.) Lunch, breakfast, or coffee out with a friend is always a nice treat too.

    1. Ellen, I didn't realize you like to crochet! I'm just learning. thanks for the encouragement, Blessings, E

  3. Funny, my blog this week cries for down time :) I do crochet, knit, stamp, bead, etc. But the thing that feeds my soul the most is time away--sitting my the ocean, a lake, stream. Water soothes my soul.

  4. Back in the fall before my blog hack and my mom's stroke, I read the book Margin. It changed the way I viewed downtime and prepared me for a crazy season. Being still, as Martha Stewart might say, is a good thing.

  5. Thanks for this, Edie! I enjoy down time as much as anyone, but I do tend to feel guilty for not writing at those points. I love to relax by reading. I will happily read for hours, often going too late into the night. 'Tis something I need to work on.

  6. I tend to be one of those all or nothing people as well. One of my goals for this year is to get a handle on the time management issue. I need some breathing room!

  7. Well , sometimes life forces us into down time. I should know. After a second shoulder surgery on 6 months, I finds self with lots of down time and I'm okay with that. It's kind of nice to sit back and Unplug for a while. And yes , lunch with a friend is always a good thing!