For my first post of the new year I’m going to go against the grain. Recommend something many writers may disagree with me about.
Here it is…you don’t have to write every day.
Yes, you heard right. I don’t believe that in order to be committed to your craft you have to sit down at your computer, or write in a notebook (if you prefer), and put down words every single day. Now, I’m not saying this as a blanket statement. In certain circumstances, like if you’re on deadline or have revisions due for a publication, well then of course you must write and get it done. But in all other cases, I believe it is certainly fine to take a break.
Here’s the thing though, a year ago I would have never believed this. I would’ve shouted from the rooftops, “Have a routine! Write every day even if it’s just a 100 words.”
Why did I change my mind? One simple word: burnout.
Since I started writing seriously about four years ago, a day has not gone by where I haven’t been plotting, writing, revising, or editing. Even when I wasn’t near a computer, I was thinking about writing. After a while, and almost two straight years of querying, that took a toll on both my physical and mental health.
In the previous year (2013) I said I was going to take a blogging break at Christmas and I did. But that didn’t stop me from writing or going on social media way too much. By the time January came around, I was still just as exhausted as if I’d been blogging and working the entire time.
After a stressful November and December this year, I found I had a hard time committing to my craft. Sure I dragged myself to the computer every day to finish the manuscript I swore I’d have done before Christmas, but by the time I wrote “The End” I had no gas left in the tank. My mind was blank and almost every single bone in my body hurt.
Once I was done, I made a resolution. No more writing, blogging, or social media for two weeks. The new manuscript was going to have to sit. The ideas for blog posts needed to wait. Twitter and Tumblr had to be words that were no longer part of my vocabulary. I knew it was going to be hard, but I had to do it.
With a single Tweet, I said goodbye to Twitter. I wrote my final blog post and said, “Happy Holidays.” With one last review, I backed up my manuscript, closed my laptop, and put it away in the closet. Were those first days hard? You bet they were, but after a while I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. A short time later, I took a walk and found I could finally take a deep breath.
Did I still think about writing? Well, of course, it’s in my blood. But the plotting, planning, it would all have to wait. Slowly but surely as the time passed, I felt myself come back to life. I took pleasure in small things like going to a movie with my phone turned off. Playing a game with my family was wonderful because I wasn’t constantly worrying about whether or not someone had sent me an email. It was pure bliss.
When January 1 came around I felt rejuvenated, but I’ll admit I was terrified. It had been fourteen days since I’d written. I worried maybe taking so much time off would make it impossible for me to be inspired again. The thought of opening my new manuscript gave me cold sweats. In fact, I had to repeat to myself, “You got this!” several times before I pushed my laptop’s on button.
Here is what I discovered: the words were still there. Creativity was still coursing through my veins. In reality “my break” did not break me. With time off, and resting my mind, I found I was excited to read my new work. That what was a first draft wasn’t so sucky after all. Serious work still needed to be done, but I was pumped to take on the challenge.
So yes, in my opinion it’s okay to stop writing if you need a break. To put the laptop away and close your mind to those plot bunnies racing around. Everything in this world needs time to rest and that includes you. Don’t be afraid to take time off if you need it. You, and your work, will both be better for it I promise!
What about you? Have you taken a break? Did it help you find your writing mojo again? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!