As I usually do around this time of year, I am preparing for an extended writing break.
This really only means I am frantically trying to write as many blog posts as possible in the next week and a half so I can spend a week not having to think about making the ideas in my head into words other people can (hopefully) understand. But it’s kind of a big deal.
I don’t love taking writing breaks. I have taken only about a week off of writing this year if you count up the handful of days I have taken off. I do love to work, and am not proud of the fact that I do it too much. But I am most definitely terrified of what could happen if I spend too much time away from my work.
Unfortunately, I am not the only one. But maybe I can shine a spotlight on some of the reasons writers — and creators in general — might be hesitant to go on hiatus. Or maybe, like me, you keep saying you are going to go on hiatus but never actually do …
We can work on that.
There are many reasons “temporarily quitting” is terrifying — especially because these days “hiatus” doesn’t always mean “hiatus” and breaks are often spent checking emails and worrying about work when we aren’t supposed to still be thinking about it.
Here are two common fears I want to break down.
They’re afraid they will lose momentum. The one downside to getting into a routine and working really hard toward a goal is that you almost forget what it feels like to not be in motion. By the time 2019 ends, I think I will have written about 350 of the 365 days in the year — consistency makes it almost impossible to stop.
But then you start thinking: What if I do slow down, even stop writing for a while, and I never get back up and start writing again? What if I just completely lose interest? What if I decide not to come back?”
Let’s get one thing out of the way first and foremost: Writing is a choice, and if you suddenly decide you do not want to write anymore, guess what? You don’t have to write anymore. The world isn’t going to end if you change your mind. Sometimes that happens. Actively choosing to pursue a different passion and let go of a desire is a sign of maturity and strength, not weakness or failure.
So if you were, during your hiatus, to decide to put your writing on hold at least indefinitely, that is nothing to be afraid of, and should not stop you from taking a break. Being honest with yourself is the most important thing of all.
But if you are simply afraid that you will have a hard time getting back into the flow, your fears are justified. But that shouldn’t stop you from taking the time to rest, either.
Getting back into a routine after breaking it is HARD. This is why so many people struggle to replace bad habits with better ones. The second you fall out of line, it seems impossible to get back on track — even though it isn’t.
There are strategies you can put in place to make things a little easier, like setting a start date (like a reverse deadline) so you can mentally prepare and avoid procrastination. But really, you have to do the best you can to trust yourself and your heart. If writing is really something you are passionate about and you want to continue doing it, you will find your way back.
They are worried about their ideas “expiring.” I include this one because I have definitely been here. I often have a lot of ideas I don’t feel I have the time to make into tangible things, and when I am not putting any effort into working toward one of those goals or starting one of those potential projects, I worry the idea will somehow disappear — never to be seen again.
Here’s the philosophy I tend to live by in this regard: If it’s a good idea and also a good fit for you, it will stick around even when you are not giving it your full attention.
Ideas are strange, abstract creatures. They insert themselves into our lives when it is most inconvenient. They fill our heads with thoughts and then suddenly are nowhere to be found. They get jealous. They get anxious. They need care and affection, except when you have all the time and space in the world to provide it. Then, and only then, they decide they do not need you at all.
“Raising” an idea is a long, sometimes exhausting and painful process. But here is one thing I know from the years I have considered myself a storyteller: The good ideas are worth it. If you are as in love with them as you claim to be, you, too, will stand by them and root for them even in the hardest of times. Even when you are almost fully convinced it would make more sense just to leave them behind.
Just because you walk away from an idea for a minute does not mean you are abandoning it. Sometimes the best ideas are the ones you leave to grow a little on their own without you. Not all ideas have to be matured right away, and often it’s better not to rush into the process.
The good ones will grow into great things, even if you leave them alone. Just don’t forget to come back.
If it really matters to you, you will always come back.
So if you are able, please — seriously — consider taking a break as the year winds down. Even if you think you have already taken too many breaks this year. Even if you are feeling extra motivated to keep pushing forward and “get ahead.”
Even I, the one who wants to work every moment of every day, have gotten better at practicing this thing some call “relaxing” — at the end of the year, anyway, which is just when I have the most time to reflect on where I’ve been and where I want to be. Reflection takes time. Make time for it now.
But also make time to let yourself rest. You’re no good when you are exhausted even if you think you are in a perpetual state of exhaustion. Your ideas are not going anywhere. You are not going to lose sight of everything you have ever wanted. Your plans and projects and dreams will be waiting for you when you come back in January … or whenever you decide to pick up your metaphorical (or literal?) pen again.
Until then, just enjoy the time you have and don’t worry about what’s to come. Okay, at the very least, try not to. Fine, if you are going to worry, at least cope with it by doing something fun that brings you joy. Like cuddling a puppy or dancing to a song you like. Whatever makes you happy. I don’t know you, I can only guess.
If you feel like you need to take a break? Take one.
If you don’t feel like you need to take a break? Take one anyway.
If I can do it, you can, too.
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.