Writing Secrets #3 - Stop Times

Just as important as scheduling Start Times (Writing Secret #2) is planning Stop Times. 

.... 2:00 am - you sense an imminent break through.

.... eyes grow tired, but you need to finish the chapter.

... a brand new structure for the scene pops into your mind, but you’ve been writing for four hours.


It might sound counter intuitive but I stop when I have a great idea or list of ideas. I go for a walk, swim, play piano … anything to stretch another part of my brain.

Then I’m eager to get back to the document to find out if the new brew has flavor!  It might be a conversation I want to add to a scene, a new structure of a chapter, a layer of symbolism to weave.  

The mind simmers new ideas as we sleep, read, live.

When stopping is planned, starting becomes easier.  Similar to athletic training, lifting the maximum for three days will haunt your muscles, day four a struggle, and the following requires rest.  Instead the writing craft mimics the steadiness of a marathon.  Quality writing, dense meaningful text, a dissertation, creative non-fiction doesn’t happen suddenly.  It is a culmination. Strong writing grows from regular reading, writing, and a life lived observantly.  

With routine and attentiveness to patterns and craft, a decent first draft might flow.  But then stop at the new spark, return with a freshness.  And mold nimbly as a potter his vase.

Ninety minutes of focused writing - STOP with your next idea.

Sketch a few quick notes by hand. 

Let the mind puzzle and juggle new hypotheses while baking French macarons, fishing in the pond, chopping onions for soup. The idea either feeds momentum or is dismissed and replaced. Either way, the mind and body will savor this routine to work melodically, preparing your return to the keyboard.