How Time Off Benefits Writers

The last part of Tips to Improve Newsletters series will continue next time. Two reasons for skipping this week. First and foremost, I’ve been glued to the keyboard for months with very little time-off, and I need a break. Two, it’s Memorial Day. Yesterday, the hubby and I cruised around the lakes and through tree-lined backroads on our new HD Heritage Softail Classic—a well needed respite among nature. We plan to continue that ride today.

Here’s a pic of our new baby…

HD Heritage Softail Classic

©2023 Sue Coletta

Time off benefits us for many reasons. When we break from our usual routine, we can no longer operate on autopilot. That decreased familiarity flips a switch in our brain to be more fully present, to really wake up. Meditation has a similar effect. Thus, taking time off increases mindfulness and produces a higher level of wellbeing.

Heart Health

Time away from the keyboard also improves heart health. It can help reduce the risk for metabolic syndrome—a cluster of health issues including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess belly fat, and abnormal cholesterol levels—which raises the risk for heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, according to Forbes. In fact, researchers found that in those who vacationed and/or took time off on a regular basis were less likely to die from heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems.


Time off reduces stress. When we’re stressed, our bodies release hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Over time, chronic stress increases our risk for health issues.

Another scientific study found that spending at least two hours per week in natural environments—parks, forests, beaches, lakes—is not only great for our soul, it’s also good for our health.


Taking time off improves the capacity to learn. When the brain is fully relaxed, it consolidates knowledge and brainpower.

“Neuroscience is so clear, through PET scans and MRIs, that the ‘aha’ moments comes when you’re in a relaxed state of mind.”

—Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time

Hence why some of our best ideas come while we’re in the shower, on a walk, or as we’re falling asleep. In fact, a professor at Columbia Business School has conducted numerous studies, drawing a link between travel and creativity.

“Foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought, the ability to make deep connections…”

—Adam Galinsky, Columbia Business School


Sleep is a commodity many of us struggle with, evident in the comments of Steve’s recent post. Stress lowers sleep quality—wake up groggy and/or suffers from a lack of energy. But taking time off to read, take a walk, or other activities can lower your stress levels. Thus, induces a better night’s sleep.

If you’re overwhelmed or cognizant that your body needs rest, take what Psychological Therapist Kate Chartres calls a “duvet day.”

“Having a duvet day replenishes your stocks. Finding the time to switch off the mind…and stop that internal chatter allows your anxious mind to repair… You’ve all heard about how our muscles need to rest. We don’t work the same ones every day, so they have time to repair. The mind needs time too, to rest and repair. This enables you to be better, more responsive, and focus on your return to work.

So, if you are feeling frazzled and in need of that duvet day, but you keep going, the chances are you’ll get more and more frazzled, less and less focused, less able to do your job. When we have too much going on, our concentration and ability to use initiative, judgement etc., are all affected. So, can you afford to pull a sickie? I think the question is to look after your mental health, can you afford not to?”

Happy Memorial Day, TKZers!

Be kind to yourself today. I’ll be around in the morning, then we’re off on another adventure. But don’t let that stop you from having fun in the comments.

What’s your favorite form of R&R? Any plans today?

To our military men and women: Thank you for your service. <3 

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About Sue Coletta

Sue Coletta is an award-winning crime writer and an active member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. Feedspot and named her Murder Blog as “Best 100 Crime Blogs on the Net.” She also blogs at the Kill Zone, Story Empire, and Writers Helping Writers. Sue lives with her husband in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. Her backlist includes psychological thrillers, the Mayhem Series (books 1-3) and Grafton County Series, and true crime/narrative nonfiction. Now, she exclusively writes eco-thrillers, Mayhem Series (books 4-9 and continuing). Sue's appeared on the Emmy award-winning true crime series, Storm of Suspicion, and three episodes of A Time to Kill on Investigation Discovery. Learn more about Sue and her books at

27 thoughts on “How Time Off Benefits Writers

  1. Sue! I had no idea that a “duvet day” was a thing. Thanks for this. I think we all know at least one or two folks who seem to be on duvet day by default.

    As far as your questions are concerned…I am reasonably certain that no one is interested in what my favorite form of R&R is…but as far as today is concerned, I am spending it with my favorite person. Me!

    Have a great holiday and week tooling around on your new toy!

    • Thanks, Joe! I didn’t know a “duvet day” was a thing, either, till I conducted research for this post. LOL

      Enjoy your alone time, SJ! 😀

  2. I’ve not heard the term duvet day either! I like it.

    When my kids were in junior/high school and several things coalesced so they were stressed, I would ask if they’d like a mental health day. They had to stay in their room. They could sleep, play, write/draw. (this was before nintendo and electronics). It had to be a quiet day. They never abused it and each took a couple days during the whole of their teen years. Sometimes I think just having the option settles the stress to manageable levels.

    Reading news about airport brawls, I think many people could benefit from a quiet duvet day!

  3. All good tips, Sue. I take one day off from writing each week, usually Sunday. I catch up on my reading, and Mrs. B and I often drive to the ocean and hang out, listening to the surf.

    Memorial Day means flying the flag, firing up the grill, and remembering my great uncle, Ted Fox, Marine, killed in the Battle of Belleau Wood, June, 1918. A few years ago I got to visit his grave at Arlington National Cemetery.

    • Sounds delightful, Jim. I used to take Sundays off, too. Then my husband got a “retirement job” to keep busy, and he often works on Sunday. We try but it’s all too easy to forget to take a day off during the week. Our new ride should change that for the summer. Then it’s football season. 😉 We’re having so much fun!

      • Meant to add: What a memorable experience to visit your uncle’s grave at Arlington. Love that. My dad served in WW2, my biological father served in the Korean War, my father-in-law served in the Korean War, as well. Although still alive, thank God, my brother and brother-in-law also both served.

  4. Good morning, Sue. And congratulations on that new Harley – beautiful.

    Very important topic for writers. It’s too easy to get caught up in our writing and not make enough time for exercise or physical activities. A few months ago I finally admitted that my belly was getting bigger, and my legs were getting weaker. I made a commitment to find some time in the afternoons to get outside or into my shop for some light work, and up my exercise to almost daily.

    I had done a lot of woodturning 10 -20 years ago. I got the shop organized and started making pens again. I’m having a blast, increasing my physical activity, and finding another area to unleash the creative side of my brain. The added benefit: It’s helping my marketing.

    Plans for the day: I’m working on designing a pen with a very talented writer who loves crows. Using cherry wood, copper, and claw/talon marks – the tentative name of our WIP is “The Copper Crow.”

    Have a great Memorial Day and a relaxing duvet day!

    • Agreed, my friend. It’s far too easy to skip “duvet days” when the WIP (or any of the other gazillion writerly things) beckons us.

      I’m so glad you’re having a blast! Can’t wait for The Copper Crow!! LOL

      Thank you, Steve. Have fun woodturning today! 😀

  5. Great article. As someone still a bit new to writing, I have struggled to find the balance or know where to set my boundaries. But I’m recognizing a pattern. I go hard for a few days and then I crash. So now I need to figure out a rhythm that that’s has more restoration before I get to the crash. Thanks for the timely words.

    • Finding that balance is not easy, Lori, but it is necessary to avoid burnout. You’ll find a schedule that works for you. Until then, try choosing one day per week and tell yourself you’re not allowed to write on that day. Giving yourself permission to not write is just as important as a writing schedule. Good luck!

  6. I wanted to toss out an example of taking time off from a book that’s still productive. A friend and I wrote a first draft mystery last year. This year, since about mid-February, we meet for a short time on Saturday afternoons to review 1-2 chapters to discuss needed revisions & make assignments. I asked to take this weekend off due to the holiday, but instead of not doing anything, we took a break from revisions to brainstorm other books in the series and also to just brainstorm other possible writing projects. It was a nice brain break from the revision process but still productive.

    My writing schedule is utterly chaotic, but I try to keep Sundays free of any tasks involving the writing trade so I can just relax.

    • Good point, Brenda. Writers love to write, so meeting with another writer to talk shop does feel like time off. Glad you relax on Sundays, though. The brain needs a break (I say that for me as much as for you LOL).

  7. Let me get this straight, Sue. You wrote a meaty, well-researched post that introduces info that’s new to many of us (“duvet day”). This is what you call “taking a day off”??? 😉

    Have a wonderful ride on your new “baby”!

    Exercise is my best way to restore mind, body, and creativity. All my family who served are buried far away but a couple of friends are buried locally in a beautiful, sprawling, hilly cemetery. I’ll go for a walk there today and visit Fred (WWII) and John (Vietnam).

    • Hahaha. Actually, Debbie, I wrote most of it last week, just spruced it up a little before hitting the road with the hubby. 😉

      I bet a lot of folks will be walking through cemeteries today. <3

      Thank you! We're leaving in about an hour. Woohoo!

  8. Wonderful post, Sue! This is something I need to “work on.” Strike that. I need to relax into this advice 🙂 Taking time off is something I’m bad at. Like you, the past few months were pretty intense–from December through my book launch a month ago I was working very hard, the hardest I’ve ever worked at my writing. Then I immediately dove into working on this prequel story/novella and last week ran out of gas.
    I exercise regularly, work on eating well (not always), and we’ve been following a weekly Stoic practice since December, using “A Handbook for New Stoics”, a 52-week guidebook.

    Having a schedule has benefited me enormously, but it can also be a prison if you aren’t careful, especially if you don’t give yourself time off. Especially important now with my wife’s parents needing extra help and other challenges at this point life.

    I took yesterday off on a whim to solo-play a couple of boardgames while my wife baked some super-delicious ginger cookies from an Alton Brown recipe. Then, we watched the 1960 epic Exodus and I finished up with about an hour of Moongazing time.

    Today we might go to a nearby nature park and take a long walk.

    Enjoy your ride today with your husband on that fantastic new motorcycle!

    • Good for you, Dale! Yesterday sounds like the perfect way to spend a duvet day. I’m drooling over those cookies, btw. LOL

      Enjoy your day, my friend. We’re about to hit the road…

  9. Happy Memorial Day, Sue! I love your new “baby.” Hope you have many safe and fun adventures with it.

    “Duvet Day” was also new to me. What a perfect phrase. I take one day off a week. I shut down computers at sundown on Friday and rest / regroup until sundown on Saturday.

    My husband is a U.S. Navy veteran. We recently joined a veterans organization here and we attend their monthly meetings. There are still a few from WWII and Korea, but mostly from Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. It’s humbling to sit in a large hall with so many men and women who paid the price so the rest of us could experience the very best of life.

    • Happy Memorial Day, Kay!

      Great idea to shutdown the computers. It’s like you’re locking the door to start your time off. I may have to try that.

      Oh, I bet. Sounds humbling but special. Love that.

  10. Great post, Sue. I also take Sundays off, don’t even turn my laptop on.

    Today, we will visit Dad across town, a Korean/Vietnam Navy veteran. Take the pooch, who he loves, and probably wouldn’t open his door if we didn’t bring her.


    Have a super day!

  11. Lately I’ve been doing 2 pages per day Monday-Friday and using weekends to read for fun and relax. Today is a holiday so Daughter and I checked out an antique mall (4 barns out in the country) and are having lunch at a new (to us) restaurant on the St. John’s River. When we go on these little adventures we always ask the locals for a good place to eat. They haven’t failed us yet.

  12. Taking time out for non chore things seems to restore my go get em-ism.

    Yesterday I did no more than minister to my home built smoker that held a nice brisket within, and this morning I did nothing except lounge and read a little bit of Tobias Wolff’s short stories.

    I feel refreshed. She Who Must Be Obeyed usually has a good idea or two about duvet days.

    And it’s Memorial Day. Here’s to the soldiers, sailors, airmen and women-all who stand guard for us while we’ve been kvetching about how rough we have it, the price of groceries and we wuz robbed.

    It says in the Book, “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lays down his life for his friends.”

    Somehow I must find a way to be worthy of that devotion to home and country.

    • She Who Must Be Obeyed. Haha. Love that, Robert!

      Thanks for the quote. Agreed. Feeling worthy of that kind of devotion isn’t easy.

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