Wait… It’s the beginning of the year. Why are we already talking about writing breaks? No matter who you are, if you go-go-go, your body will eventually demand a reprieve. Just like your body needs sleep at the end of the day, your brain and body, heart and soul, will want a break after a particularly hard day.
I know it will…because that’s exactly what happened to me.
Let’s Talk About Writing Breaks…
Writing breaks are literally just a time that you step away from some or all of your writing responsibilities, or at least the ones that are causing your stress, anxiety, etc. These projects, which might feel like or actually be a necessity to your life or writing career, will not help you if you’re not in a motivated and inspired mood while completing them.
That lack of motivation, that gutted inspiration, will show in your writing. And that is not something you want, right?
Let’s Talk About Burnout for Writers (and How it Relates to Writing Breaks)
Writers’ burnout is a very hot phrase in the writing world. And for good reason.
Burnout happens when people push themselves too hard for too long, and the end result is complete and utter exhaustion.
Think about it… Let’s say you wanted to start a new diet. Okay, so you eat better and start working out. You completely stop eating the foods you like, or don’t eat them very often, and you work out for several hours every day. After a while, you’d get tired and resentful right? You’d start pushing it off, and pushing it off, until that whole diet thing is completely in the past.
That’s what burnout is.
When writers’ burnout settles in, everything becomes difficult. Every sentence we string together is a chore, and those two-thousand words we used to write like nobody’s business lessens. Maybe it turns into one-thousand… Maybe it dwindles to a few hundred.
Whatever that bottom number, whatever that low is for you, that’s burnout. And the only way out is to take inspired action.
Now, I realize taking action during burnout seems counterintuitive, but hear me out.
The only way out of burnout is to recognize the symptoms, understand what’s happening, and take a step back from whatever the root cause of the burnout is.
For me, that was blogging. I’m not going to blame it on anything specific, but last year was rough for me. Well, it was actually the year prior that melted into this last year, but… *shrugs*. I had a lot of goals that weren’t getting accomplished, a laundry list of personal things I wanted to check off my list, and none of it was getting done.
So, I stepped back. I took a backseat to my blog and my business, and focused on the things that brought me complete joy. I focused on the things that I loved, the things that I had been wanting to do for years, but couldn’t quite get done for one reason or another. I did those things.
And, guess what? They got done. After spending seven months in a loop of nothing, I got more done in one quarter than I had gotten done in the previous eighteen months combined. Let me tell you something, writers, that’s a lot of stuff.
But why am I telling you all of this? Why am I sharing this with you today? Because, if there was any doubt in your mind, I wanted to solidify the fact that burnout is a real demon everyone, not only writers, face.
This is the start of a new year, a new moment, and I don’t want you to start off with a list of grandiose goals and ideas just to not accomplish them by the end of the year. I want you to be aware that there are things that might hinder you, and there are ways to avoid it and ways to overcome it.
Now, the Big Question, Should You Take a Break From Your Writing?
The biggest thing that forced me to realize burnout was not only settling in, but the foundation was poured, the metal frame up, the drywall placed, and the flooring in, was that I was always tired.
Now, there are about a million reasons you could be really tired, and I totally encourage you to seek professional assistance, but that wasn’t it for me. (And I went to the doctor’s.)
It started with just breaking from my tired writing projects, and starting new ones. One that I had been wanting to start, but put off because of one reason or another.
What happened? My entire life changed.
I outlined two entire book series. One fiction and one nonfiction. I wrote like there was no tomorrow. I checked about forty-eight things off my to-do list. I was inspired by new and exciting ideas, some of which I’ve already started to implement and some of which I’m working on, but holding off on implementing.
So, I’m not saying you have burnout, and I’m not saying you need to take a writing break. But, I’m saying you might. And I’m saying that you shouldn’t work yourself to death because, well, that’s just not good for you.
How to Take Productive Writing Breaks
But…wait! What if I don’t want to interrupt my productivity by taking a writing break? Don’t worry. As a workaholic, I totally get that. But just because we’re taking writing breaks does not mean we’re stepping away from our craft nor our passions forever.
Just because I stepped back from many of my responsibilities does not mean that I totally stopped working. I still outlined. I still wrote. I still worked out. I still edited books, and created things, but I only did exactly what I wanted to, until I didn’t want to do it anymore.
There were a few big things I didn’t get done, but the things I did get done (that weren’t on my original goals list) were HUGE. And instead of ending the year with a sigh, staring down at my keyboard and wanting to just curl up under a big fuzzy blanket, I ended the year with a smile.
Don’t worry about timelines or timers or deadlines (unless they’re contractual or otherwise inflexible) and just worry about you as a person, and as a writer. These little mindset shifts will help you persevere through whatever is going on, and will help you realign with what you really want.
Sure, I was still curled up under a blanket, because… Well, it’s winter and damn cold. But I curled up with my laptop, drinking my favorite ginger-lemon tea, working on projects that sparked joy. Not only sparked, but ignited passion back into my life, and my writing.
October, November, and December, for me, were fabulous months. I got so much accomplished. I’ve made new goals lists for the upcoming quarters (and year). And, with a reignited fire and new systems in place, I know it’s all possible.
So that, if nothing else, is why writers need writing breaks. Why, even if you think everything is fine, that you’re totally okay, that a break can do nothing but help. Having stressors and pain points is not fun, and taking a step back and working on only what jives with your writer-self, if only for a short while, is the best way to avoid burnout and continue living your best writing life.
So, even if it’s a short regular break, writing breaks are definitely something you should implement into your writing life. No matter how long your writing break is, make a goal to give it a try.