Personally I believe that phrase is a giant misnomer. Yes there are times when we as writers find it more difficult to come up with an interesting plot point or a witty turn of phrase but to think of these times as a block is to give them more power and more longevity than they need or deserve.
As a writer in the scifi and fantasy genre, I like to think of writing in terms of a super power. To be honest if we even thought of it as a push up, my point would still work All super heroes get to a point where they can’t use any more of their abilities without recharging. Green Lantern for example can only use his ring for so long without having to go get his Lantern, say his words and recharge the battery (literally) on his ring. The Rock can only do so many push ups before his arms grow sore and he must stop, get a protein shake and move onto legs or cardio. Why should writing be any different. It is after all just mental exercise. And whether you are creating new worlds and bending space and time to your whim or simply exercising your mental thesaurus, it takes it’s toll on your brain.
Keep in mind your brain is doing a bajillion things while you create and explore the world of your characters including analyzing and chronicling YOUR world. There comes a time in every writers creative process where they just have to stop. Your brain can’t fully flesh out the nuances of your imaginary world and perform all the vital functions it needs to in order to keep you alive and a aware of the real world. This is when it’s time to go ‘Recharge Your Ring’.
Personally, what I do when I get to that point is two fold. I take a couple of days away from whatever it is I am working on (currently book 3 Blood on the Throne) and I find other things to do. I go for walks, I go to the movies,I get caught up on my favorite tv shows, I read other books, or whatever it is that makes me happy and relaxed. The entire idea of the SMFTM Singles was born out of one of the breaks I took while writing Pandemonium Justified. It was essentially my ‘Mental Leg Day’.
The burst of energy I received when I first started writing book 3 has fizzled at this point and I am maxed out. The thing I want to stress is that it is important to know yourself and your process well enough to know when you have maxed out. Otherwise, you risk hurting yourself (during physical exercise) or your characters and their world. It’s ok for today to be Leg Day and it’s ok for today to be Cheat Day. Your brain is a muscle, Treat it like one. So for me today is ‘Mental Leg Day’ and like Winter in Westeros it lasts as long as it lasts and I am ok with that. Hope you are too.
-Manny L. Birch