How Embracing “Rest” Helps Us “Work” Better

Today, as I observed the tender new shoots of grass emerging from red clay, I was reminded of the day I sowed the seed. Two weeks ago, I experienced one of the most productive days of my working life as a full-time writer. Not only did I rewrite the troublesome ending of a long-form essay, I drafted a completely new flash creative nonfiction piece, and I reviewed a short essay by a friend. Knowing the next day would bring rain, I also planted a patch of new grass and later, journeyed to the grocery store for a week’s worth of essentials.

How in the world did I manage to accomplish so much writing while doing so much else? I’ve devoted entire days to writing before and didn’t accomplish even half that much! What I remember most about that day was how I felt as I worked. Never have I felt such brio, such vigor and passion for my writing. It wasn’t until I started reading “Rest” by Alexander Soojung-Kim Pang that I understood why.

Here’s what was different about that day:

1) I got an early start. Rising early in the morning and getting to work first thing was a practice of the most accomplished writers, says Soojung-Kim Pang, from Anthony Trollope to Edna O’Brien.

2) I limited my writing time. I knew I needed to plant grass before the rain, so I had only two hours to write. Therefore, instead of scrolling through email and Twitter, I had to set to work immediately. As Soojung-Kim Pang says, this focused concentration is also something that distinguishes the masters, especially Olympic athletes.

3) I engaged in sustained physical activity. Planting grass and working in the yard for a few hours wasn’t heavy labor, but it gave my active mind a “rest” and let my subconscious mind noodle around the revision questions on my mind. The powerful connection between physical activity and mental exertions is long supported by scientific research, says Soojung-Kim Payne.

4) I returned to my writing later that afternoon excited and motivated. There was no drudgery this time, as my earlier sustained effort rewarded me with something worth coming back to. I accomplished all of the writing tasks on my list!

5) I slept soundly that night. Although this wasn’t one of my goals for the day itself, a side benefit was how I slept that night. Because of the combination of mental concentration AND physical exertions, I slept better than I had in a long time. This rest, in turn, helped me write better the next day.

In a nutshell, and this was before I read “Rest,” I had accidentally engaged in all of the activities recommended by the author. I “layered” periods of work and rest, detached myself from distractions and when I did work, whether it was sowing grass seed or writing, I immersed myself fully in my work. Now that I’ve discovered this wonderful book, I’m learning even more about how this “accidental discovery” can improve my writing as well as my life. For one thing, the grass is much greener over here!

“A life that focuses on what matters most,” concludes Soojung-Kim Payne, “makes time for rest, and declines distractions may look simple on the outside but from the inside it is rich and fulfilling….Deliberate rest helps you live a good life.”

The Answer to Our Poll and More…Countdown to August 19 Event!

A big thanks to all who answered our poll. And 100% of all respondents got it right! Just what is the source of Margaret’s stress? Herself! She doesn’t take time out to take care of her body, mind and spirit. So no wonder her stress meter is off the charts. Can you relate?

What treatment would be best for Margaret? Personally, I recommend the Spa at Bell House pedicure. It’s relaxing, pampering and presents a fun opportunity to try out a new color of polish. I also recommend the foot reflexology treatment, which helps restore balance and energy flow. But there’s also the facial, the body scrub, and last but not least, a variety of soothing massages. Take my word for it, Spa at Bell House offers a wealth of treatments that live up to their promise of Southern hospitality and exceptional care.

As for Margaret, unfortunately, her hometown doesn’t offer a wonderful retreat like Spa at Bell House. And you better believe there’s a lot  more trouble ahead for her in Naked and Hungry, including the hold-up of the car lot, the disappearance of her boss, and the threat that H.T.’s meddling mother will acquire the car lot and sell it.

Will Margaret toss in the towel or emerge a winner? For more of Margaret’s story, great conversation, and a special dessert of pastries and blackberry sauce, join us for Tea on the Front Porch on Friday, August 19 from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.–just one week away. I’ll read a short excerpt from the book, and you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about the perfect remedy for your Type A woes!