Writing is a routine. It must be. The brain adjusts well to regimentation, it likes to know when to start being creative and when to stop. I don’t banish thoughts or ideas about my books during other hours, but I sit down to type at the same time every day.
Every day. That is the crux, the good as well as the bad. When the thread is unbroken, the story flows. I write seven days a week, every week. I am guilty of writing on Christmas Day, Thanksgiving, New year’s Day, even my Birthday, just to keep the story flowing.
There are times, however, when time away from the computer can’t be avoided. There are family trips, business trips, conferences. Add up the hours and they can seem significant. Multiple days away can erode the thread of a story. Even if I bring my computer along and try to write elsewhere, it isn’t the same. It just doesn’t flow.
There is a downside to the regimentation I describe (beyond health, social life, and family, of course). The work can become ingrown. Too much time too close to the story breeds an overabundance of detail, micromanagement of plot and characters. This focus on minutiae is an unconscious thing. It’s rather like a relationship: too close too long causes one to worry about all the little things that ultimately mean nothing. Once apart, the little things evaporate, supplanted by the larger, more important matters.
So it is with writing. Time away from my story helps restore its essence, the big picture, the Great Idea. Not the family trips, or conferences, which bring new pressures and responsibilities, but a planned, short solitary excursion, no more than overnight, perhaps. It is a good way to empty the mind, to learn new things, to let ideas take shape at their own speed. Inevitably, during such trips, my mind travels back to my writing of its own accord, and I see where I have gone off track, or have allowed minutiae to conceal my plot, or hide my characters.
Occasionally it feels as if my trip had been destined, when I learn new things that have direct bearing on my story, things I can use to good purpose. Sometimes I meet people with personalities or mannerisms that help define my characters. Regardless of direct benefits, such trips always refresh the mind and spirit.
Try it. You’ll see.