When I smoked, a cigarette provided the best opportunity to step away from whatever I was doing and give my brain a second to recharge. This was especially helpful when I was writing, because it gave me a timed break away from the page where I could get my thoughts reorganized. The nicotine buzz helped, too. But it was really the focused break -- the act of doing something that took a specific amount of time that gave my brain a break without introducing more problems -- that was so valuable.
Over time, I started replacing smoke breaks with other activities. For example, I always used to go outside to smoke when I talked on the phone. Now I take the dog for a walk every time I make a phone call. I've started taking showers to unwind and clear my head after something stressful instead of inhaling a pack.
And I've started playing Plants vs Zombies when I get stuck on writing.
I'm not the only writer who does this. I read on J.K. Rowling's website once that she has a Minesweeper addiction for the same reason. I'm sure other people do it, too. I've toyed with a wide variety of games to serve this purpose -- for a long time it was Freecell, then it was Tetris, then this bubble shooter game. But lately, it's been Plants vs Zombies.
If you've never played it before, Plants vs Zombies is a strategy game. Zombies cross your lawn, which is made up of a number of lanes, and your sole protection against them eating your brains is an assortment of plants, each of which has different effects. So there's a plant that shoots peas, for example, and a potato that explodes on impact. You set up traps using your plants, the zombies walk into them, and you advance to the next level.
Here's why it's so great as a writing distraction tool:
- It gives your brain a break without getting you sucked into something that might alter your mood or distract you for a long time (like, say, checking your email or Twitter would).
- Because it's a strategy game, it uses your left brain, which keeps it busy so your right brain & subconscious can think.
- The levels are fairly short, and the game pauses after each one, so it's easy to take a break for just one level at a time
- It's ridiculous amounts of fun
Well, anyway. I'm off to get a little bit more work done. After I finish tonight, I think I'm done for the rest of the week -- I'm taking a nice, long weekend to work on my new novel, spend some quality time with the boy and just relax for a bit.