3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Take a Break From Writing

Before walking away, ask yourself a few tough questions.

So. You want to take a break.

You’re tired.

You’ve been working hard for a long time.

Or, you’re just fed up, but don’t want to quit completely.

Here are a few things you should ask yourself before walking away.

Are there Important Life Things that, for now, need to take priority over writing?

Last week, I adopted a puppy. I realized very quickly that I needed to take time away from all my personal writing projects to help her (and myself) adjust to the new arrangement. This was an Important Life Thing — I was responsible for a fuzzy chew monster, and couldn’t have focused on writing outside of my day job even if I’d tried. (SHE’S JUST SO CUTE.)

Sometimes, “life” happens. You have to focus on fewer things that need more individualized attention. You have to put aside writing to be a responsible human — and that’s OK. You should never feel guilty for doing this, as long as you set a “restart” date (mine was today!) and jump back in as soon as you are able.

Would you rather do something else because you can’t shake off unimportant distractions?

I’m confident many would-be writers stop because they get too distracted by other things — things they’d “rather” be doing, instead of things they “have” to do.

There’s a big difference between reordering your priorities and not writing because you’d rather do something else. I haven’t played a video game in over two months. I’d love to stop everything I’m doing and do that instead. But I have to write. Until my distractions stop being distractions and start being “earned relaxations,” I’m not allowed to touch them.

Does the writing you’re doing make you feel unfulfilled?

Here’s a final reason you might at least consider quitting temporarily: you aren’t happy with the work you’re doing. It might seem like you’re just tired or it’s just been a long week and you need a short break, but dissatisfaction with your current WIP/job could be the underlying cause.

How do you fix this? You take some time off. You reflect. You ask yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing, how you could make it better, or what you’d rather be doing instead. Sometimes, doubting whether or not you’re doing the right thing is the best way to figure out where to go next.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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6 thoughts on “3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Take a Break From Writing

  1. I want to get back to my editing! But I’m MOVING this month, and I feel the obligation to keep up with my blogging schedule…

    I *did* take the time to write 3200 words of a just-for-fun story that popped into my head though. I’ve been editing so long, I’d started to forget what story creation felt like.

    1. I know, when you are in the revision stage, or putting your work through the “meat grinder” as my friend calls it, you can forget how you created the story in the first place. Sometimes you have to walk away and take a good long look at your WIp, before youcan polish it up the way you want it, before you send it off to an editor.

    2. I moved last year, and had to take some time off from what I was working on. It’s definitely tough, but as long as you can find a way to get back on track when you’re ready, it’s OK to take a step back. Healthy, even. You can’t write your best work when you’re stressed!

  2. I admit, I often find it tempting to “take a break”. It’s so easy to give in to indulgent behavior, like playing a game or something.
    I try to push myself, and really consider whether “taking a break” will lead to better writing when I return, or if I’m just being tempted.
    Sometimes a break really is needed, but I like to first try switching writing projects, like alternating between writing/revising a story, working on a book review, writing post, or catching up on blog posts that others have written.
    And sometimes I compromise with myself, “Okay, if I’m not going to put in another 2 hours how about another 45 minutes, and then I’ll take a break/goof off.”

    Definitely solid questions to consider, and a nice distinction between different reasons “why” a break might be warranted, or tempting.

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