It’s Okay to Take a Break from Writing
Wherever you are in the world, life is likely looking very different from how it did a few weeks ago. Here in the UK, everything except for essential businesses like grocery stores has closed until further notice. Schools closed two weeks early for the Easter break, and it’s looking like they won’t be opening again any time soon.
Maybe you’ve stopped writing. Or maybe you’re still writing, but it’s a real struggle.
Sometimes, life is just overwhelming. Coronovirus might be a once-in-a-century event, but on a personal level, there are a lot of other times your life might be thrown into chaos.
Natural disasters. Political upheaval. Illness – yours or a family member’s. Even nice things, like starting a family or beginning a new job, can be a huge change to your lifestyle.
It’s fine to take a break from writing.
Don’t push yourself to churn out your daily or weekly words on top of everything else. Don’t guilt trip yourself for not writing.
(Of course, if you want to keep on writing, do! Your writing is still meaningful and important. It still matters, and it’s still absolutely okay to carve out time for it.)
If you do decide to take a break from writing, though, these tips should help:
#1: Set a Time Limit on Your Break
Perhaps in the past, you’ve had only semi-intentional periods of not writing. This has happened to me plenty of times. It’s so easy to slip from “a busy week” when you don’t write into “a busy month” … and months later, you realise you’ve not written a word on your novel/blog/book/other big project.
Set boundaries around your break. Decide when your break from writing is going to start (which might well be “today”) and when it’s going to end.
At the end date, let’s say in six weeks from now, you don’t have to start writing again. You can decide to take another break. What matters is that you’re taking time off consciously.
#2: Make Some Notes About Where You’ve Got To
Before you stop writing completely, leave your future self a reminder about where you’ve got to. While it might well seem obvious now that you’re about to go on and write a specific scene, you might have forgotten in six weeks’ time.
Jot down some notes that will remind you what you last worked on and what you’re planning to do next.
For a novel, this might look something like, “Finished draft of Chapter 4, about to start Chapter 5, but decided Josie’s motivation is wrong. She’s jealous of Sam. Planning to add in a scene in Chapter 3 where we see this.”
For a blog, it might look like, “The plans for next four posts are in Google Docs, and I’ve finished the outline for a mini-ebook. Planning to draft the ebook next.”
The aim here is to make it easy to pick up your project again, even if you end up taking months away from it.
#3: Avoid Making Major Writing Decisions or Changes
This is not the time to abandon a project completely. You might well be struggling with your novel not because there’s anything wrong with it, or because you’ve fundamentally lost interest, but because you’re going through so much right now.
Equally, this is not the time to begin on anything major and new, particularly if that’s going to be tricky to change your mind on. Don’t sign up for an expensive writing course that begins in a few months’ time – you might find a different writing project you want to work on instead.
Instead of ditching any projects completely, park them for a while. Set them to one side, and come back and reassess once you’re ready to write again.
Also, instead of pushing yourself to commit to anything new – even if it’s a way in the future yet – give yourself permission to have a real break. Write down what you’re thinking of doing, and revisit your ideas in a few weeks or months to see whether they still feel like a good fit.
#4: Decide Whether to Still Read About Writing
I hesitated to write this section because, of course, I don’t want you to leave Aliventures! But I also don’t want you to keep reading the blog and newsletter if they’re making you feel pressured or guilty.
Many writers enjoy reading about writing even when they’re taking a break from actually writing. Continuing to subscribe to writing magazines, or continuing to read blogs and books about writing, can be a great way to stay in touch with your writing side even when you don’t have the energy or motivation to put words on the page.
However … some writers find it too pressuring to stay that involved with the writing world. If the magazines, books, blogs, podcasts, videos, and so on are making you feel guilty for not writing, then take a break from those too.
It’s fine to take a break from writing. You’re still a writer when you’re not currently writing – and there will be plenty of times in your life, for all sorts of reasons, where you’ll end up not writing much or at all for a while.
Of course, it’s also fine to carry on writing. You might well find that writing provides a much-needed escape during a worrying time, or a sense of purpose and accomplishment when many things are out of your control.
In Thursday’s newsletter, we’ll be taking a look at some simple, low-pressure ways to keep writing during tough times. If you’re not already on the newsletter list, you can find out more about it and join here.
I’m Ali Luke, and I live in Leeds in the UK with my husband and two children.
Aliventures is where I help you master the art, craft and business of writing.
If you're new, welcome! These posts are good ones to start with:
Can You Call Yourself a “Writer” if You’re Not Currently Writing?
The Three Stages of Editing (and Nine Handy Do-it-Yourself Tips)
My contemporary fantasy trilogy is available from Amazon. The books follow on from one another, so read Lycopolis first.
You can buy them all from Amazon, or read them FREE in Kindle Unlimited.
Ali, this is amazing. I’ve been stucked at home bored these days. But I got to realize that now is the best time to write. Because we’re all now literally jobless, when we don’t work online.
Nice article tho.
Thank you for this! I found your website as an activity for the creative writing degree I am taking, and I am so glad I did!
I am writing, as I need to for the degree, but my ‘passion project’ (my novel) has not been opened in a long time. It is an unintentional break! So I have no clue where I’ll be picking it up, and it is being edited!
I look forward to browsing your past posts, and reading future ones!
Thanks so much, Ingrid — and welcome to Aliventures! I think unintentional breaks happen to all of us at times, and it sounds like you’re doing a lot of writing that will hopefully feed back into the novel once you have the chance to get working on it again. 🙂 Hope you’re enjoying the degree!