I don’t think a writer truly has an “off” button. Our projects are always on our minds. But it’s not a bad thing…in fact, some of my greatest “ah-ha!” moments as a writer have happened away from my desk. Here’s how you can turn your own time off into productive writing time:
1. DO SOMETHING PHYSICAL AND MINDLESS. I can’t tell you how many ideas for new books or revelations about characters I’ve had while mowing the lawn. Or painting the porch. Walking the dog. There’s something about fresh air and looking at something other than a computer screen that lets the mind wander in all sorts of new directions.
2. READ OUTSIDE OF YOUR GENRE. Reading is still a great end-of-the-day relaxer…but reading MG novels when I’m working on an MG can make me feel like I’m never off the clock. Read a mystery if you’re working on a romance, read adult if you’re working on kid lit. It feels like you’ve traveled into a whole new world. (And you’re still learning from your fellow writers…)
3. ENJOY AN OFF-PAGE STORY. I’ve found this one to be especially important lately, as I begin to focus heavily on plot (WHAT happens, not just HOW it’s told). Plot is especially obvious in a movie or TV show. Binge-watch something new. Get caught up in the whole what’s-going-to-happen-next feeling. Ask yourself what’s giving you that feeling. Figure out how you can incorporate it into your own work.
4. TACKLE A NEW HOBBY. Learn something new. Take a road trip to a state you’ve never visited. Take up an instrument or a sport. As a writer, every new experience winds up finding its way onto your pages. It makes your work—and your life—far richer.