“I’ve been freelancing for over seven years and in all that time I’ve never had a day off, not even a weekend.”
Those words made me sad when I read them on a forum for freelance writers. I know firsthand that not taking a break can exact a heavy toll on a freelance writer.
Of course, I can relate to the writer’s statement. As a freelancer, I’ve had my share of weekend working and working vacations. Sometimes you have to do that to meet a deadline.
I also understand the financial pressures that freelance writers face. If you don’t work, you don’t get paid.
But if you’re one of those writers who never takes a break, you’re doing yourself a grave disservice. Here are four important reasons why writers need to take regular breaks.
Reason #1. Your Physical Health
We humans aren’t meant to work around the clock. Everyone needs to rest, and writers are no exception.
Our minds and bodies need breaks. If you don’t take healthy breaks, you’re likely to experience stress.
Stress can hurt your health. The simple fact is, if you are stressed out most of the time and never make the time to relax you are probably going to get sick. Stress is the underlying cause for some medical conditions and it makes many other conditions worse.
Even if you’re not stressed from overwork, you may be cutting your sleeping hours short. As I was writing this post, I ran across this excellent post from Michael Hyatt on the importance of sleep if you want to be productive. In a nutshell, if you want to get a lot done, get enough sleep.
So, as a writer, you need to take a break to protect your physical health. Remember, you don’t have paid sick days.
Reason #2. Mental Health
Your mental health is also in jeopardy if you don’t take a break.
We’ve already discussed how stress affects your physical health. Stress also has a detrimental effect on your mental health. In fact, your entire outlook can change because of stress. Chronic stress has been linked to:
- Mood Disorders
- Anxiety disorders
- Substance abuse
Clearly there are other contributing factors that affect mental health, but as with physical health, stress makes mental health problems worse.
Not only does overwork affect your mental health, it also negatively impacts your relationships (which could leave you alone to deal with all the other problems we’re describing).
Reason #3. Relationships
If you’re working all the time, your relationships are going to suffer. It takes time to build healthy relationships–time you won’t have if you’re always working.
As a writer and a human being, you need a healthy support group. Even if you’re basically an introvert, you still need other people.
Imagine yourself alienated from family and friends. No one wants to talk to you. It’s not a pretty picture, is it?
One thing that many workaholics forget is that relationships are important in business too. Your business is based on your relationships with your clients. But if the other relationships in your life are disintegrating, it’s hard to build good client relationships.
Reason #4. Real World Inspiration
My final reason for writers to take a break is so they can experience the world beyond their computer.
We live in a world surrounded by inspiration, if we only peel ourselves away from our monitors long enough to see it:
The list of things around us can inspire us is endless. But we have to let ourselves experience those things.
When a writer tells me that they have writers’ block, I sometimes wonder when they last took a break.
For me, breaks are the best way to overcome creative block. Other writers must feel the same way. Most of the successful writers I know have interests beyond their computer monitor–interests like hiking, art, volunteering, and more.
Is taking a break important to your freelance writing? What inspires you beyond your computer monitor?
Share your answers in the comments.