Why taking a break from your writing may be the end of it.
There’s a school of thought these days that taking a big hiatus from writing is a good way to refuel your tank for when you are ready to write again. The concept is that giving your writing muscles a rest will allow them to work even better when you get back at it. The flaw in that thinking is this—in no other endeavor does this make sense, why would it make sense for your writing?
You’re a marathon runner. You stop running for years. Do you think you can simply jump right back into running 26 miles?
You’re a golfer. You quit for a few seasons. You think you’ll be able to break 90 again just hoping you will?
You’re a sculpture. You use your hands in skillful ways; delicate movements for creating art. You give it up for a year. Do you think your hands will fall right back into the graceful patterns without some work?
Each answer to each question is no. Why would one believe the answer would ever be yes if you stopped writing?
Writing is a craft. There are writing muscles that will atrophy if not used regularly. Imagination muscles must be worked if you want to stay toned. These are not skills one can simply put on a shelf and pull down to use whenever one wants. The work of writing is not like making toast—plug in the toaster and drop in some bread. You can’t simply plug in the story maker and drop in some ideas. Taking too long a break from writing means you’ll have to work to get your writing muscles back into shape. The toaster will always work, today or three years from now. But the skills it takes to write will wither if not worked.
So what do you do if you believe you need some kind of break? Five things to consider.
- Change it up. If you’re writing fiction, write a short personal essay instead. Write a poem. A haiku. Sketch a tree in your notebook or journal and give it a title. Keep the creative muscles moving by simply changing kind of writing. It will reignite the fire.
- Take a walk. There is a long list of literary walkers. Few things can invigorate the creative soul more than a long walk in the woods, around the neighbor, out with your dog. Pay attention to your breaths, your steps, and all that is around you.
- Go somewhere else. Change your writing space. If you always write at the kitchen table, go to a coffee shop. If you write in bed, try writing outside in a lawn chair. New smells. New sights. New energy.
- Socialize. Some writers tend to fall into introvert holes. Believe me, there are times I would love to go find a cabin in the woods and go Thoreau on the world. But being with people who are not writers, going out to dinner or for a few drinks, going to a football game, interacting with people who are not constantly thinking about writing brings a breath of fresh air to your world and it can spark a new idea, a creative fire, a little inspiration. Remember what people say—lines, funny stories, interesting perspectives. They could end up being dialogue in your next project.
- Try something new. I don’t mean try a new genre or form of writing. Instead consider painting, drawing, playing the piano, woodworking, simple sculpture, community theater, go to a open-mic poetry night and try your hand. The idea is to keep your creative muscles moving but in a completely different way. Not necessarily your writing muscles, but your overall artistic muscles. I play guitar. Sometime I just write a simple song.
The key here is to do any of the above suggestions, or maybe another you can think of, as you continue to write. Don’t stop writing. Keep at it. Work those muscles. But at the same time sketch them in other ways. It’s like CrossFit for creatives.
Taking a full-stop break from writing can lead to never returning. And you don’t want that, do you?