The first few days are golden. Singing along with The Cure at the top of your lungs, wind in your hair, getting to know your companions even more – finding out what really makes them tick. Discovering their hopes, their fears, and their flaws.
And with so much time spent crammed in the car together, it’s inevitable that those flaws start to grate on you. There’s no telling how long this trip will last, how many more miles you have to go – but you need a break. What started out as an epic adventure is rapidly turning into a chore. And finally you reach your breaking point.
Time to kick your characters out of the car.
It’s usually hard for writers to take a break from their work. Sure, we can stop writing. But getting those characters and their story out of our heads? Another issue entirely. Because no matter how much they may irritate us, we love them and we have to finish this trip.
Sometimes, finishing requires time away to regain your focus. So how can you take a break, a real break, from a story? With a technique all writers master at some point or another: Distraction.
5 Ways to Distract Yourself from Your Characters
- Change your routine. It’s when I’m doing the things I do every day – going to the dog park, waiting in line for coffee, picking up groceries – that my characters sneak into my head and suck me back into their story. Just by putting myself in a new setting, like taking my dog to the lake instead, or trying a new cafe or market, I force myself to become more aware of my own world and not my characters’.
- Start a new project. Maybe a short story, non-fiction narrative, a poem, a musical composition, or a whole new novel. Even if you don’t finish it, that initial excitement can not only help provide a much-needed break from the original story, it can also help give you a confidence boost.
- Meet new people. Actual people, not more people inside your head! Those first few conversations with a new friend can really command all of your attention.
- Help another writer. If you have friends who are writers, you have friends going through the same thing you are. Ask them how their projects are going and talk through any problems – get to know their characters. Offering solutions to them just might trigger a solution for you, too.
- Exercise. Specifically, try something that requires a lot of focus, such as yoga or a martial art. Even if it’s just 15 minutes, the break will do both your mind and body a lot of good.
What do you do when you and your characters are, as Ross would say, “on a break”?