After writing last week about ways to keep your mind limber while on a writing break, I promptly went on a small week-long writing break. Thirty-one members of my immediate and extended family were in town, we were camping for days, and what had started as volunteering to pick up the food from the grocery story quickly morphed into me being in charge of all things food related. I had an absolute blast, but it just wasn’t feasible to be doing any writing work. (Thus I find myself last-minute typing this blog post up during my lunch break.) I hadn’t really planned be to taking a break, but it just happened. (Sorry, that-one-deadline.)
Breaks happen. Sometimes they happen when you plan for them to, like when I know I’m about to birth a human and I’ll need some time for my brain to readjust to endless screaming needs, or when I know I’ll be car camping on the side of the road without electricity for a week or more. At other times, breaks happen without warning or a plan, like when a computer suddenly breaks or there’s an emergency that needs immediate and full attention.
And then there are the in-betweeners. The breaks that happen maybe a little unexpectedly, maybe a little uncertainly. These are the breaks that don’t have to happen necessarily- you could probably keep writing if you really worked at it, but for one reason or another you don’t.
Deciding to take a break from writing is very personal and everyone does it for different reasons. I’m a big fan of powering through and writing every day, no matter how little, no matter what’s going on, but that doesn’t work for everyone. Heck, sometimes that doesn’t even work for me.
So here is a short list of some perfectly legitimate times when it might be appropriate to take a break.
Your life is busy and you have rent to pay.
The sun is shining and you haven’t left your cave in three days.
You’re feeling burnt out and are bored with the sound of your own writing.
You want a break.
If you find yourself in one of these situations, it’s totally fine to take a break. That’s right, even just wanting to take a break is a totally legitimate reason to take a break, and you don’t have to plan for it and schedule it in for it to be ‘allowed’. We writers can be a pretty miserable bunch- frustrated when we’re writing and frustrated when we’re not. I am the queen of hurling abuse at myself whenever I’m not living up to my own high standards.
It does not have to be this way. We would never treat other people like this, so why should we treat ourselves so poorly?
There are a lot of really good reasons to take writing breaks and sometimes those breaks are actually more beneficial than just powering through. Taking a break allows you to see your work with fresh eyes. It can refresh you mind and allow you to approach writing again with new ideas. It can fight burn out and help you relax (or pay for groceries, or visit your grandbabies, etc).
A break does not mean that you are quitting writing forever, or that you’re not a ‘real’ writer, or that you lack willpower. It simply means that now isn’t the best time for writing and you’ll get back to it when you have something to say and the time to say it. And until that time rolls around, don’t feel bad about taking a break. After a little recovery time, you’ll be back at the races and stronger for the time you spent on the bench.
Take care of yourself! Be kind to yourself! And- if it works out- happy writing!