I took a break from my main fiction project recently. Having finished the umpteenth round of editing on my second novel, I decided a few weeks separation was needed before I re-read it with fresher eyes and decided which aspects needed to be re-tackled.
While I let my novel lie fallow, I reflected on the place of “not writing” on that body of work. Although I took a break from creative writing, I think this experience could apply to taking a break from other creative pursuits.
At first, it was strange. I constantly felt guilty that I wasn’t writing or editing my novel, and had to remind myself this was a deliberate choice. Of course, ideas usually come to mind after intense editing, and when they did, I just noted them down for action later. Oddly much of this time I was idea-dry, but there were a few valuable bursts of inspiration initially and more insights as time passed.
I did still do some writing but nowhere near as much as usual and certainly not every day; sometimes days went by without writing. I wrote stream-of-consciousness “pages” on a fairly regular basis, I snuck in some editing on some of my short stories and I wrote regularly for my medical jobs. I even contemplated making a start on my next novel, for which ideas are brewing. I chose not to because, while I also hold down three jobs, I find it difficult to swap between working on different novels. I like being in the flow for one novel at a time. I tend to want to give my project as much of my attention as I can (around my other commitments). I can pause for non-fiction writing or sometimes a short story, but to start another novel didn’t feel right. For the same reason, I chose not to look again at my first novel.
Once I got used to the pattern, I enjoyed having more time to do other things. More time for catching up with friends and family, exercise, reading, gardening and knocking off some of those chores that sit perennially on one of my lists but must be done at some stage – great to be without the added pressure of those jobs achieved. I went on a holiday with my family and for once wasn’t wondering if I could juggle my time to squeeze in some work on my writing.
The real challenge to my “taking a break” philosophy came as I restarted editing, while also catching up at work on my return from leave. Unexpectedly I had to devote more time to family and my writing break turned out to be longer than I had planned.
The reflection I had done during my time-out meant I was already at peace with myself on not writing when the occasion arises. Quietly accepting, without guilt or frustration, that it would be a little longer freed me to do what I needed to with a clear conscience.
In the meantime, my head feels clearer, my ideas-and-to-fix list has grown considerably longer and I am excited about the next round of rewriting and editing. (You will see from my previous post why I am excited about being excited!)
Many opinion pieces extol that we writers must keep writing every day, no matter what is going on around us. Maybe that is the right choice for some, but it isn’t the case for everyone. I have read a few posts that acknowledge the importance of a break and to those authors, I thank you.
Life has ebbs and flows. Some prudently placed downtime can be well worth the investment.
What has been your experience of taking a break from writing?
Any advice to those considering a writing break?
I’d love to hear your ideas and experiences – please share them in the comments.
Thanks for reading this post! Some of my other posts include:
- When push comes to shove – juggling priorities in a time-poor world
- What are the synergies between mindfulness and creativity? and
- Where health and creativity intersect.
With best wishes for your creative health and that of our community.
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© 2015 Jacquie Garton-Smith