If you’re a writer, you write. It’s a simple concept, right? But what does it mean for a writer who isn’t writing? Maybe you don’t want to write. Maybe you feel that you’ve lost the “magic.” It’s tempting to admit defeat and begin down a new path, because while writing can be easy when you’re inspired, it’s nearly impossible when you’re not. If this sounds at all like you, don’t give up yet. It may be time to consider a short break that will rejuvenate your love of writing.
When it’s time for a break
Before I began pursuing a career as a writer, I loved writing. As I developed my skills in both undergraduate and graduate writing programs, I loved writing. I wrote a novel and still I loved writing. Then I began the processes of rewriting and editing ad nauseam. I locked myself away in a room, studied market trends and publishing tips, and made every effort to be a “Real Writer.” The result was a loss of the love I once had. Suddenly it was difficult to begin a simple short story. I gave in to the fear and apathy—I justified that as long as there was a dirty dish or a stained shirt, I had no time to write.
Between writing and editing, I spent nearly a decade working on my novel. Instead of taking some time to reflect, I pushed hard to publish. When that began to take its toll I jumped into other projects. I might have benefited from a break, but I was haunted by the advice that writers should write every day. I pushed myself harder and the harder I pushed, the less I wrote. I was stressed. I’d lost focus. I needed to create some distance from my craft so that I could reconnect.
The art of breaking
If you’re facing a similar challenge, I recommend a respite of sorts from writing. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you stop writing. You wouldn’t expect a star athlete to retire to the sofa for months on end after every big event. To remain relevant, one needs to stay sharp and in shape in their field. Taking time away from your daily writing regimen may not hurt.
If you feeling like it’s time to refuel, here are some ideas to consider:
- Have fun with your writing – Experiment with styles and prompts. Write about why you chose to pursue writing in the first place. Write nonsense. Sit in a café and write down everything you see or hear. Let go of all the expectations.
- Revisit a loved book – Take this time to revisit the book that made you want to be a writer. Reflect on what it is about another’s writing that you love so much. Remember that great writers are well-read writers.
- Be inspired – Seek out inspiration. Pepper your workspace with encouraging quotes. Discover the uplifting guidance of other writers. I highly recommend Colum McCann’s Letters to a Young Writer.
- Delve into a hobby – If you’re like me, you have a few non-writing projects you have been ignoring for decades. Unbox that cross-stitch you started in the seventh grade. Dust off that wood-working project taking up space in your garage. Let your mind rest and relish in the joy of finishing something you started.
- Spend some time away – Going on a vacation not only gives you a reprieve, it can provide you with wonderful writing material. Visit the setting of your next project and do some research. Or, if being immersed in your work won’t help you relax, go as far away from your writing as possible.
- Set some goals – Is it time to reevaluate your writing? Do you love your own work? This is an excellent time to reflect on who you are as a writer and where you hope to go.
Keep in mind that you should commit to how long you want your recess to last. Set a concrete goal. You want to feel restored when you return to your writing, so give yourself enough time away, but not too much.
The idea of taking a breather from your writing may sound daunting, but pushing yourself to write when you just don’t have it in you will have negative consequences. Eventually, it will take a toll on your writing and possibly your own well being. Recognize when it’s time to take a step back and reflect. In the end, your brief respite may give new life to your writing.