Putting Your Writing On Hold DOES NOT Make You ‘Weak’

Perhaps, at the end of it all, it will have made you stronger.

I’ve been trying to write this post for two hours. I have gotten distracted by every possible thing. I have debated just not bothering to write it at all. But I also know that if I don’t finish it, I won’t sleep tonight, and if I don’t sleep tonight, everything will just feel a thousand times worse.

As I write this, dear readers, I am not as okay as I would like to be. And I’m not feeling great about it.

I am fine, and everything will BE fine. There are just some things completely out of my control that are spending all my energy. And that is making it very difficult to accomplish more than the absolute minimum.

Maybe you’ve been in a place like this before. Maybe you haven’t. Either way, I hope you at least somewhat understand that as I am writing this, I am sitting here wishing it has already been written, I do not want to continue writing it, I do not feel I am giving my audience my best words, and that is how I know it is time to slow down.

I’m going to be real with you in the paragraphs that follow. Because the writing life, in its true form, is at times ugly and unpleasant and dark and not at all enjoyable.

The year I decided I wanted to write more than I ever have before has suddenly become the year I may take my first writing hiatus since 2012.

Because of course it has.

I’m still going to stick to my blogging schedule — I honestly don’t think I could function as a human being if I didn’t “talk” to y’all every day. But things like my book and my articles … basically everything outside of my “normal” work day, I just can’t handle it right now.

And do you know what? Even writing that makes me feel weak and sad.

For a long time, I have tried to be the strong one. The one who could “do it all” despite so many things crumbling around my happy little island. The one who could endure the resistance and crash through the obstacles and emerge on the other side victorious and unscathed.

I cannot be that person right now. I have been trying for weeks to be that person, and it has worn me down to the point where … well, to the point where I’m admitting publicly that I almost have to stop writing completely for a little while.

It goes without saying that I did not plan for this to happen. I planned for July to be my most productive month of the year, and so far it has been one of my least.

I think part of what feels so disappointing to me about all this is that I’ve finally realized how selfish and unaware of my privilege I’ve been. How many times have I told my followers to “just write even when things are all going wrong” having completely forgotten what it feels like in the midst of everything all going wrong? Has it been so long since I TRULY struggled that I couldn’t even fathom the idea of taking a writing hiatus in favor of taking care of my mental/physical health?

I’ve never shamed anyone for doing this — at least, not directly or on purpose. But with me it’s always been the extremes. You should either write in the middle of a tornado BECAUSE GOALS or you should take a break BECAUSE EMOTIONS. What is the in-between? Does an in-between even exist?

If it does, I hope I find it. I hope this “break” helps me find it.

I’m not okay with this decision. I’m trying to be, but I’m not. I had to contact a lot of people to tell them not to expect work from me for the time being and I hated every second of it. I’ve had to tell people who have been able to rely on me in the past that I couldn’t help them. I’ve had to say the word … no.

No. I’m not okay with having to slow down, and I don’t know if I’ll be until I’m past all this. So on top of everything, I’m also carrying around the not-writing guilt. Because the truth is, I don’t think it matters how long you’ve been writing. If you aren’t, you will feel like you should be, and sometimes that makes you feel awful.

But I wouldn’t be a credible source of writing advice if I said I never felt not-writing guilt or never walked back on a promise or never said I was going to write after work and didn’t.

I wouldn’t be a credible source of writing advice if I didn’t remind you that taking a break from your creative endeavors to deal with Life’s Cruel [Or Wonderful] Happenings is not only normal, but sometimes, completely necessary.

I’ve written it a dozen times and I’ll write it again now: Sometimes you have to say, “Not right now.” Sometimes you have to put things to the side and focus on what is, in that particular moment, more important.

Right now, my personal projects just aren’t as important as dealing with the personal things requiring my full energy and attention. Remember: Writers do not exist in bubbles. Sometimes things happen and you have to be a responsible adult and put down your pen and go deal with them.

The hope is always, of course, that you can return and reflect on your experiences in the form of words when you return. Even if you never share those words with anyone. It’s always been my belief that you can’t heal when you’re tending to a wound, you can only begin to heal after that wound is cleaned and bandaged and you have time to think about how you got here.

It’s not quitting. It’s saying, “Not right now. Not because I don’t want to, but because I can’t.”

I step back now so that I can step into things again with more strength and determination than I’ve ever ha before.

Maybe I’ll get used to it. Maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll have a hard time “coming back.” Maybe I won’t.

All I can worry about now is taking care of me, and making sure there’s still enough of me left, when this is all over, to start creating good things again.

Soon, I hope. Soon. Very soon.

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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2 thoughts on “Putting Your Writing On Hold DOES NOT Make You ‘Weak’

  1. Absolutely take that break. Self-care is so important, especially when things in life turn for the not-so-good. When I lost my home to a flood back in late May/early June, I didn’t write or knit for a month. I didn’t have the emotional energy. I needed to relax and be there for my special needs siblings. But I’ve had that chance and now I’m ready to bring my focus back to both; have started already, in fact.

  2. Unless we exercise good self-care, we cannot be of use to others.

    I am awful at taking this advice myself, but it doesn’t make it any less true. I try every day to do a little bit better.

    Whatever else is happening, you must take care of *you.* The writing will still be there.

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