By Sierra Becze
The film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, The Shining, is one of the most famous psychological thrillers of our time. For those who haven’t seen it, the movie is about an author who brings his family into an isolated hotel in the middle of winter, gets cabin fever, and then tries to murder them. But what exactly made Jack Torrance go insane in the movie? Was it the haunted hotel that possessed him? Or was it because he was trying so dang hard to finish the final draft of his play without taking a single break? A strong argument could be made for the latter option. If Jack would’ve taken a break from his writing, The Shining probably would’ve ended with the Torrance family building snowmen and living happily ever after. Taking a break during writing may seem counterproductive, but it can actually be incredibly helpful. If not, you risk axing down a door while yelling “Heeeeeere’s Johnny!”
In the iconic scene, Jack’s wife, Wendy, is roaming around the house trying to escape her crazed husband and stumbles upon his typewriter (the clip can be watched here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jeOevu4zC5o). The old proverb, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” has been typed over and over onto the page. What exactly does this quote mean and how does it relate to writing? If you are continuously working on your paper without giving yourself breaks (to play), your writing becomes dull and boring. It will also be harder to write your paper if you feel exhausted because your creativity and ability to make connections between topics will be hindered. This can ultimately result in writer’s block, making it feel like you’re frozen inside of a maze.
In the Shining clip, Wendy then sees a box full of additional pages of the play. While there are about 500 pages inside of the box, the old proverb is the only thing written. Sometimes the format of his writing changes, but it says the same exact thing on all 500 pages. This kind of thing can also happen if you don’t take breaks during writing. While you may come up with 237 pages in one sitting, it will probably say the same exact thing over and over. This will be useless and leave you feeling more frustrated than when you began.
After some consideration, you decide you don’t want to go crazy trying to write your paper in one sitting like Jack; what are some effective ways to take a break? Exercising by going to the gym, taking your dog for a walk, riding your tricycle, or playing with your twin sibling are all great ways to refresh your mind. Try grabbing a baseball bat and playing some ball if it’s a nice day outside. Exercising allows the blood in your brain to start pouring in, which can help get the creative juices flowing and defeat writer’s block or repeating ideas. But what if you’re like Jack and you don’t want to go outside because there’s a giant snowstorm? What other ways can you take a break? One thing you can do is watch a movie (read: The Shining). You could also treat yourself to some ice cream or take a relaxing bath. There are a million different ways to take a break from writing; just do whatever sounds the most pleasing to you!
Writing a paper can make you feel like you’re wandering tirelessly in a maze with frostbite–lost with your brain freezing up on the spot. Sometimes you will want to try to push through it, but that will only lead you deeper and deeper into the maze. Taking a break will give you the ability to see the trail of footprints leading out of the maze and ultimately allow you to survive your paper.
Kubrick, Stanley. “THE SHINING (1980) – “All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy” [HD].”
YouTube, uploaded by Cicoare Studio, 25 Mar 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jeOevu4zC5o.
The Shining. Directed by Stanley Kubrick, performances by Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall, Warner Bros., 1980.
Zadeh, Ulvi. “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.” Kinozade, 15 June 2015, kinozade.blogspot.com/2015/06/all-work-and-no-play-make-jack-dull-boy.html. Accessed 12 Sept. 2016.