“Suck it up.”
“Just do it.”
“No pain, no gain.”
We’ve all heard these types of platitudes, and sometimes, they’re useful–especially when we need to focus for an hour or two to meet a deadline.
However, they’re often counterproductive, demoralizing, ridiculous–especially to you, right now, the writer struggling to keep a project moving forward.
When you’ve reached an impasse, one you can’t simply power through, you may need to walk away.
And it goes against everything you’ve read:
- “The only way around is through.”
- “The cure for writer’s block is writing.”
- “Quitters never win.”
But you’ve tried to force it to completion, and it’s just not working out.
So, what’s the problem?
People from all walks of life take vacations.
Why not you?
In fact, some down time may be just what you need to fix the problem, a way to reorganize and recharge, a way to resume your work with some perspective.
So, stop giving in to those taskmasters, the voices of your parents and teachers, telling you to suck it up, and get it done.
A break might be beneficial and appropriate for you and your writing.
Rather than viewing it as a setback, embrace the adventure. Think about all you’re going to learn…
Read on to discover 11 benefits of taking a writer’s break.
You’re Going to Miss Your Work
You’ve heard the saying, “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” but does it apply to your writing?
Sure, it does.
Taking time off can provide a much-needed lift.
A little distance will renew your interest in your work.
Like an old friend you haven’t seen in a while, you’ll find yourself anxious to get in touch again, to share the new balance and energy you gained in its absence.
Just make sure you don’t take too much time away.
When we’re immersed in a subject, it’s easy to pause and resume. Starting and stopping can be more complicated when a longer length of time is involved.
If you’re a musician, you’ll understand my point. When you’re performing on a nightly basis, it’s easy to remain focused. It’s easier to play your instrument. Your voice can handle the high notes because you’re warmed up and you’ve had plenty of exercise. You remember the songs. Your fingers instinctively know what to play and how to play it.
When returning from a long absence, you may have difficulty adjusting; however, your renewed enthusiasm will take up some of the slack.
You’ll Gain Perspective
When you’re engaged in our work, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture.
Focusing on the important, yet small details of each project, you can forget where you’re going. When you’re focused on sentence level details, it’s easy to forget that each line leads you to the story’s climax.
You forget that you’re creating a life-changing experience, that you’re sharing an important truth with your readers. You forget that you have larger, layered stories waiting beyond the details in your current paragraph.
Taking time allows you to zoom out and witness the entire landscape.
You’ll Make New Connections with Your Work
Taking a break loosens the ties to your work. When you’re driven to perform, to complete the next phase in your writing project, you rely too much on habit.
Taking a step back allows you to form new connections, to find fresh pathways for completing the same tasks. You’ll begin to see your characters differently, to see new possibilities for your plot. You may loosen your grip on a favorite or difficult scene, realizing it’s unnecessary, that it impedes the flow.Taking a step back allows you to form new connections, to find fresh pathways for completing the same tasks. You’ll begin to see your characters differently, to see new possibilities for your plot. Click To Tweet
You may discover that you’re making it too hard, holding on to ideas you’ve outgrown.
Time Off Provides Rest & Regeneration
As a writer, you probably push yourself.
The only thing worse than external deadlines are the ones you force on yourself.
Straining to reach your daily word count, you may keep odd hours, sacrificing sleep or quality meals, compromising your health.
To be creative, you need adequate rest and relaxation. When you find yourself out of balance, you need to unplug, to remove yourself from your work.
You need REM sleep to dream. You can’t create fascinating worlds (or characters to inhabit them) when you’re feeling run down, exhausted, or uninspired.
Make sure to rest rather than turning to another obsession.
Reduced Pressure Brings Increased Creativity
Ever notice how a creative solution arrives when you least expect it, when you stop looking for it?
Taking a break releases the pressure.
When you’re focusing too hard on your work, it becomes more difficult, like overworking a muscle to the point of exhaustion. When you push it too far, it pushes back with pain and inflexibility, swelling to protect itself from further damage.When you’re focusing too hard on your work, it becomes more difficult, like overworking a muscle to the point of exhaustion. When you push it too far, it pushes back with pain and inflexibility, swelling to protect itself from further damage. Click To Tweet
When this happens, you pause. Don’t force things to work. Take a step away, and allow the solution to emerge on its own.
You Can Pursue Other Interests
When I experience writer’s block, I turn to cooking.
I know that a handful of ingredients and some time on the stove will produces a delicious meal. There are few variables, and I trust the process: A + B = C.
This helps my writing immensely.
After some time apart, often just a few hours, I’m reminded that the same rules apply. I can assemble the ingredients, put in the time, and create something meaningful to share with my readers.
Immersing yourself in other activities informs your writing. Taking a new class, indulging a new hobby or a new interest will stimulate creativity. Try shifting your focus.
You Can Re-imagine Your Relationship with Writing
Taking time off can help you see things clearly.
How long has it been since you took time for self-reflection, to evaluate your current path?
Taking a beat from your writing may reveal ways you abuse yourself. For example, many writers make their self-worth dependent upon their current level of productivity, upon their latest sales figures.
You may not even realize it until you’re away from the source of your anxiety.
Creative ventures are challenging, but you can’t allow them to take over. Carefully negotiate the terms of your success or failure.
You make the rules.
You Can Finish Your List of Shoulds
You know you should exercise more.
You know you should eat better.
You know you have leaves to rake, cookies to bake, a best friend or parent you’ve been neglecting.
Taking time off provides you with time to catch up, time to tick those boxes on your checklist. Writers feel guilty when they’re not writing enough; however, there’s nothing worse than feeling guilty while you’re writing!
Consider taking time off to clear your to-do list. Map out a schedule, and make a week of it.
The best part?
After tackling those nagging issues, you can choose yourself and your writing again.
You Can Change Your Scenery
Every time I find myself in a new, intriguing place, I feel creative.
I wonder how many people walked the same paths, how many people shared the same views.
I wonder about their lives, and I begin building characters. I develop stories and ideas for future exploration. Often, it only takes a weekend to feel energized and creative again.
We spend much of our time on autopilot, multitasking, going about our days in the same way. It’s easy to become fatigued, bored with our surroundings. This mindset can derail creativity.
So, break your routine, and discover a new place. It doesn’t hasn’t have to be far. Find a local treasure, and get inspired.
Allow Your FOMO to Build to a Crescendo
When we consciously turn away from our writing, we feel good for a while. We feel relieved without the constant pressure to produce. Sometimes we pick up new activities. Sometimes, we do very little.
Over time, however, we wonder what could be happening, whether we’re missing out on something important. It’s like those characters in our heads start moving on, and we become afraid of being left behind.
We start to wonder if we’ll lose our edge, if our beloved “friends” will leave us forever.
So, it builds and builds until we must return. We just can’t stand being out of the game, out of the action we should be enjoying.
Perhaps it’s guilt, but I suspect it’s bigger than that. If we don’t find our way back soon enough, we just might lose it. We might forget how to get there, how to be there, how to remain an active creator.
We realize that we need the challenge to feel alive. We need the words, the scenes, and the characters to navigate our own lives.
You’re Going to Realize How Important Writing Is to Your Quality of Life
Time off is essential.
And as we’ve discussed here, it benefits your health, your well-being, and your craft.
But we’ve saved the best reason for last.
After spending time away from your first love, you’re going to realize just how important it is.
Imagine a world without books, a world without an internet for sharing ideas, experiences, and information.
Writing gives you a voice, the power to be heard and understood. Writing changes hearts and minds. Writing takes readers to places they’d never go on their own.
And if you’re anything like me, writing may have saved your life—not literally, but in inestimable ways. Writing gives me a reason to continue, a means for exploring the world within and without.
Writing gives me hope that I can understand and communicate with others, that I can report on what I don’t understand.
Writing gives me hope that all can be well, that everyone and everything can grow and evolve.
What’s your time-off story? What happens when you unplug from your writing?
Tell us about it in the comments section below.