How did we get here?
What exactly has occurred to shape a creative culture in which you’re somehow “less than” if you aren’t writing 12 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year?
Why do we receive praise for announcing our “hiatuses” from social media?
Why is it a “big deal” whenever we decide to unplug for a weekend?
Shouldn’t all this be a normal part of the writing life?
I don’t understand writers who “don’t have time” to take breaks.
Or those who “take breaks,” but somehow manage not to actually break away from their routines to accomplish the very thing a break is technically meant for.
And I used to be one of them.
University life filled me with a toxic cocktail of lies, making me believe I had to “be it all” to make it as a writer. I don’t regret the degrees. But I do regret subscribing to such a dangerous, destructive mindset.
Not taking breaks is like holding your breath.
Like skipping meals.
Like staying awake long past your bedtime.
No. You are not going to “make it.”
You’re going to fall apart.
And bragging about how much you work, don’t sleep, and don’t take care of yourself isn’t just sad. It’s harmful to new aspiring creatives, who will see your behavior and think that’s what it takes.
That’s far from the truth.
A wise mentor once told me that the most creative, relatable storytellers are those who take the time to venture out into the world and experience life.
If all you ever do, all day every day, is write … you’re not experiencing anything.
You’re just writing about the same things. Gathering information from the same sources. Basing your thoughts and beliefs and perspectives off of what you read and hear, and not what you see and do outside your bubble.
And you’re creating quite a miserable future for yourself and those who continue to stand by you.
How did we get here? We made that miserable life sound like the only option.
It’s not just you. I was guilty of it once, too.
It has to stop.
I, and many others, have wasted too many days — too many YEARS — spreading the lie that more work meant more success. When really, it’s not about writing more. It’s about writing well, and smart, and being consistent, and being reliable, but also taking care of the body that feeds the brain that fuels your creative energy stores.
If you don’t rest, you’re going to fail.
You don’t ever take breaks? You work all the time and you’re proud of it? Good for you. But I’m sad for you. Your lifestyle doesn’t impress me. And that makes it hard for me to take your words seriously. Because there’s no way you can genuinely write from the heart, when you’re too busy destroying yours.
Never shame me for taking time off. Respect me for it. That’s all I ask.
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.