I once went 7 months without writing.
No journaling, no fiction — nothing other than college and newswriting assignments. If I wrote at all, it was because my GPA, or my job, depended on it.
Even in the months leading up to that unintentional yet necessary hiatus, my journal from that time period is filled with months’ worth of one-sentence entries. If they weren’t all packed in a storage unit right now, I’d show you. I’m guessing they were just statements about how I felt — I’m tired. I’m lonely. I’m sad.
I didn’t write because I couldn’t, not because I didn’t want to. I wanted to. But it took a very long break for me to realize how much writing as a whole really meant to me.
Sometimes, you have to take a step back. You have to fix your life. It’s not about making excuses as much as it is about prioritizing, about knowing when it’s OK to leave stories frozen in time until you’re mentally and physically able to return to them again.
All this isn’t to say you should quit just because things are hard. If you really need to take time off for personal reasons, obviously you’re not going to completely miss out. You gotta do what you gotta do.
But sometimes we don’t realize how much we depend on something for joy, for survival, until it’s not part of our lives anymore. I didn’t want to find something else to replace writing. I couldn’t. It was, and still is, as much of a part of me as breathing. That’s not an exaggeration, either. When I don’t write, I feel like I cannot breathe. Nothing is quite right without it.
You’re not a failure if you have to step away. And if you do have to step away, that doesn’t mean you will never return to writing again someday. Chances are, you will. You might even return feeling refreshed and ready to start over.
It’s OK. Take a break. But don’t forget to come back, eventually.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.