What’s a writer’s worst nightmare? A notebook ban? The evaporation of ink? Aliens descending and interfering with the world’s wi-fi signals? I could keep going with plenty of examples, even throw in a few reasonable suggestions. But I think I speak for all of us when I say our biggest fear is the loss of our creativity. When the writing brain shrivels up and refuses to work, it’s a crisis. You have to rest. And as crazy as it sounds, daily naps are the key to that necessary reset.
Remember nap time during school? Everyone dragged out a cushioned mat into the middle of the floor. Maybe you got a snack beforehand (in case you wondered why, it’s because full stomachs predispose the body to rest), or perhaps your teacher broke out a book and read it to you. Shades were drawn, blinds were closed, and lights went out.
Being oblivious children, you probably didn’t sleep. There was too much going on in the world that you didn’t want to miss out on. So you giggled or whispered with your friends. Or (ever the writer) you stared at the ceiling and made up stories in your head.
And now you kick yourself for that missed opportunity to snooze.
Because getting even your recommended hours of sleep every day feels like a monumental chore. The boundless energy you enjoyed when you were an adorable munchkin dissipated. It’s why so many people survive on caffeine infusions. And why we drag our bodies around after brief bursts of enthusiasm.
Even on vacations.
(And stare in utter awe at siesta hours when we venture overseas)
But the truth is we can reclaim those missed nap times. And if you want to boost your creativity, energy, and sanity (I know, that last one is always a question mark), you SHOULD have napping penciled into your schedule.
Arguably, our parents and teachers created those afternoon breaks for their benefit. (Have you ever attempted to chase a small child for an entire day?) But naps are actually healthy for EVERYONE.
Yup, even adults.
When you take short time outs from your life – whether you feel busy and overwhelmed or not – you get impressive returns:
- Relaxation (well, duh)
- Less fatigue (because you’re RESTING)
- A better mood
- More brain power for concentration, memory, and creativity
Yes, the brain works 24/7/365, but it still needs DOWN TIME. And when you kick back and let it default into “sleep mode,” you take the pressure off. That allows it to see to basic repairs and resets, giving YOU a fresh set of synaptic impulses when you wake up.
Naps WILL give your body the chance to heal. And they only require a tiny portion of your day.
Being Sleep Smart
You can’t nap willy-nilly. Schedule your naps too late in the day or for too long, and you interfere with your usual sleep routine. That doesn’t help your brain or body, and it won’t boost your writing ability. (It WILL boost your coffee budget)
The adults in our life were onto something when they prompted us to stretch out daily after lunch.
See, early afternoons are prime times for a snooze. You don’t want to go much later than 3:00 PM. (Now, if you have your freelance schedule set up for night owl hours, you CAN play around with the times)
And while nap time always felt FOREVER, it wasn’t that long in reality. An alarm set for 10-20 minutes is all you need to give your brain a break.
Let’s be honest: That’s NOTHING to add to your schedule. It’s probably time you already spend staring out the window or waiting in line at a particular coffee establishment we shall not name. But you can swap that time out for a quick, PRODUCTIVE break.
And wake up refreshed and ready to tackle your writing.
Naps and Writers
Everyone has theories for working through blocks, dry spells, or edits. But the simple truth is the brain can only handle so much before it gets overwhelmed. It gets TIRED. (Imagine trying to do 5,000 things at the same time ALL THE TIME)
And forcing creativity never works.
Putting down regular naps on your schedule is a kindness. Not just for your poor overworked mind, but for YOU.
It’s time you step away from the keyboard. You can stretch out on a couch, find a hammock, or curl up in bed. Take light off your eyes, turn on music or white noise (no news – that’s not going to calm you), and drift. You’re offering yourself the grace of a BREAK.
And it’s the nicest thing you can do for yourself. (Because you know you didn’t savor those moments enough when you were a kid)
Once you incorporate the routine for a few days, you’ll start seeing your writing flow:
- New ideas (REM sleep is dream sleep, people)
- Less frustration with edits
- Different perspectives
Sure, all of those things are in your writing brain already. But they’re overshadowed by the daily minutiae crowding your thoughts. And if you’re not sleeping well, skipping meals, forgetting to exercise, or doing equally irresponsible things, your body will prioritize its health over your writing. (Note: You should probably do all of those things. Naps are a great start, though)
Let the neurons sort things out for 10 MINUTES. Then go back and see what it brings to the surface for your writing.
It’ll surprise you.
Nap to It
I HATED taking naps as a kid. They equated to a punishment I didn’t earn. I mean, I enjoyed the books (of course), but lying on the floor and pretending to sleep felt like a waste of time. There were trees to climb, creeks to explore, and knees to scrape.
Why didn’t teachers understand that?
And now I look back at my younger self and curse her for an idiot. She wasted so much good serotonin.
It’s taken me YEARS to accept napping. Even with the proof of how much BETTER I feel after crashing on the couch. The guilt will circle – as if having a brand new clarity is a BAD thing.
But I can’t deny the results.
The body is designed to rest at regular intervals. Denying the practice only damages your health and compromises your writing.
Frankly, I’m not willing to do either.
What about you?