It has been almost 20 days since I last opened my book.
I’m very slowly making my way through a second draft. There are no deadlines other than the recklessly ambitious one I set for myself at the end of 2019 … you know. Before the entire world just … yeah.
But I’ve still been struggling with feelings of anxiety and guilt, knowing I could be working on finishing this thing. Even though I’m not doing it as quickly as I’d like to be.
Aside from blog posts and “real” work, I haven’t been doing much writing for myself at all lately. Which is totally fine, don’t get me wrong.
In fact … maybe we all need to go through brief periods of “I haven’t been writing a lot lately.” Maybe that’s the untold secret to long-term writing success.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “How does not writing set you up for succeeding as a writer?” I get it. It doesn’t make sense on the surface. But when you dive a little deeper, it clicks.
In the fitness space, experts are very persistent about encouraging people to take “rest days.” This means that anywhere from one to three times per week, you either take a break from one kind of exercise and focus on another to give certain muscle groups time to recover, or you take the day off of working out completely.
For some reason, we’re never told to structure our weeks like this when it comes to writing and other creative endeavors. Even though our brains — not technically a muscle, but stick with the metaphor for just a minute — need recovery time just like our muscles.
When you stop writing — let’s just say for a day — then return to it the day after that, you’re probably not going to struggle as much to do your work as you did before. You might even feel completely renewed.
Maybe what you need, if you’ve been feeling unmotivated and uninspired lately, is to just let yourself take a break already. If you’re already not writing, then there’s absolutely no point in continuing to beat yourself up about it while still keeping the task on your to-do list. Just let it go. Stop writing. Free yourself from the lie that you’re going to do it tomorrow, because chances are you won’t.
Stop writing for now. Not forever. Just for a little while.
When you return to it — as you should — it’s very likely you will beel more energized, motivated, and inspired than you have in days. Weeks. Months?
Give yourself permission to take a break.
It’s not “failing.” It’s not “a waste of time.” It’s a much-needed disruption in routine. A reminder to your brain that you still like to write. You just haven’t been … and you want to again. Soon.
It’s OK, every now and then, to step away from your words.
As long as you come back to them. As long as you, eventually, grant your ideas the attention they deserve.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is an editor and writer, and a 12-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food, and Star Wars.