“Generally, it takes a minimum of two to three weeks for the body to recover from the strain of running 26 miles 385 yards. Return too quickly and you increase your risk of injury. Some experts suggest resting one day for every mile you run in the marathon, thus 26 days of no hard running or racing! Others suggest one day for every kilometer, thus 42 days rest. Often the determining factor is not how quickly your body recovers, but how quickly your mind recovers, since you temporarily will have lost your main training goal. Olympic champion Frank Shorter says: ‘You’re not ready to run another marathon until you’ve forgotten the last one.’” —Hal Higdon
I have not read any studies about how long it takes the body and mind to recover from a writing marathon. But I can tell you this from my own experience and anecdotal evidence: writers need to rest and recover, too. Just a week after finishing National Novel Writing Month, I still get up to write but find that I have little to say. I spend quite a bit of time staring out the window or surfing the Internet. Though I have begun the recovery process by doing the basics (sleep, read, clean, eat, and exercise), it is clear that I need something more.
In a running marathon, you hit the wall when you deplete all of the glycogen stored in the liver and muscles. After 30 days of writing, we have depleted our creative energy. We need to nourish our creativity before we work on revising the book or starting a new process. But how?
In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron encourages readers to take a weekly artist’s date. I love the idea but rarely take time to do it. As Cameron says, “Commit yourself to a weekly artist’s date, and then watch your killjoy side try to wriggle out of it. Watch how this sacred time gets easily encroached upon.” (The Artist’s Way, p. 19) No kidding! Here are five fun and free ways to nourish your creative spirit on an artist’s date:
1. The Library. Visit your local public library and wander around until you find a section that piques your curiosity. Grab a book. Repeat the process (wander, get curious, grab a book) until you have a stack of books. Find a cozy corner of the library and page through the book much like you would wander through an art museum. Stop on the pages that intrigue you, skip the ones that don’t.
2. The Kitchen Table. Get out your art and craft supplies and make something. Don’t worry about being fancy or professional—all you need for this activity is paper and crayons or colored pencils. Scribble and enjoy!
3. The Music Device. When I was a teenager, I had a special ritual that accompanied the purchase of a new album. I would take it home, put the record on the turntable, and read the liner notes as I listened. There’s nothing like listening to the creativity of others to restore your own creativity. Choose an album that you love and spend some time with it. Listen to the music, chew on the words, and let your spirit sing.
4. The Art/Craft Fair. Maybe my favorite part of the craft fair is seeing how artists repurpose everyday objects to make art. One year, I bought earrings made out of silver-coated Barbie doll shoes. Visit a few art and craft fairs this winter either in person or online and simply appreciate the art. Perhaps you could follow up your art fair visit with a trip to the junk or hardware shop with this question on your mind: what could I repurpose to make art?
5. Playground fun. Perhaps the activity I have needed most after this month-long writing adventure is time to play. Find your nearest playground and swing, slide or climb your way back to sanity!
This December, don’t whine about being tired or burned out. List 20 places in your area that sound like amazing places to take your inner artist and start making plans! Remember, you can do an artist date without spending a dime—take a walk in the woods, attend an author’s book reading, or visit a unique place. Just get out of the house and have fun! (Sledding anyone?)
Your turn: Please add your favorite rest and recovery activities below.
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