Is it okay not to write?

I know everyone’s knee jerk answer to that will be, “No way! If you want to be a writer, you have to write…all the time, every day, consistently…end of story.
But wait. There are some exceptions and it does involve trusting your body and mind to tell you when those exceptions need to take place. I’m a firm believer that things like writer’s block are just ways that your body and mind are trying to tell you they need a break, fresh inspiration or for you to relax and come at things from a different angle.
By the same token, when writing becomes a chore that you dread doing every day, it’s time to take a break. Remember back to when you started writing. You probably had dreamed about writing for a very long time if you’re anything like me. You fantasized about sitting down to write and loving every second of it while wonderful stories spilled from your mind down to your fingers and out onto the page. You imagined it being fun, fulfilling and exciting to do. And it still can be. But too much of anything and your body will cry foul – that it needs a break.
I recently hit such a patch just around the holidays. Things were crazy and I didn’t have much emotional energy left over for my characters. It wasn’t that I didn’t think about them and that plot ideas for my story didn’t still spill through my head, but the thought of sitting down to write made me even more tired, when I know on “normal” days the thought of sitting down to write excites me and puts a spring in my step.
For several years I dreamed of getting to stay at home full time to write. I imagined all I’d get done and how easily the books would flow. Fast forward a few years and I’m writing full time, but I should’ve been more specific with my dream. Yes, I’m writing full time, but I had to go through 7 emergency brain surgeries to get to this point where I can’t work in traditional jobs while I’m healing. And even writing is now difficult and a chore sometimes for me to do. I just physically and mentally don’t have the stamina I used to and not just for writing – for everything in my life. Now that doesn’t stop the fact that I’m grateful to be writing full time and I try to take advantage of that fact as often as possible. But if I don’t let myself rest and give myself a break then my body revolts and let’s me know that it’s in charge and not me.
I know some of you are going to say that in those circumstances maybe breaks are okay, but in normal circumstances writers must write – all the time, every day. And while I don’t disagree that that’s a good goal. It’s also a good way to burn out.
Write as much as you can. Become disciplined about it and you’ll be very thankful that you did. Your writing will improve, agents and editors will notice and you’ll finish more stories in a quicker timeframe. But sometimes – and your body and mind will be able to tell you when – sometimes you just need a bit of a breather.
And you’ll be amazed how much a few days or even a few weeks off will help you reinstall the wonder and the pizazz back into your writing and your attitude about writing. Now I’m not saying to let yourself get out of the habit of writing. Maybe you could continue to write something every day. I write out a list of 10 blessings and why they are blessings every morning. It may not be the paranormal romance I usually write, but it forces my mind to work and keeps me in the habit of sitting down at my computer and writing something every day. Or you could write a paragraph. I’ve done this before on my self allowed vacations. I just sit down and write a paragraph and keep them all in one big word doc. Several of those have turned into new story ideas and even new books, so it’s not wasted effort and keeps the creative juices flowing.
But by giving myself permission to take a break and not feel guilty over it, I’m allowing my body and my mind to take a vacation and recharge, and believe me, they will show you appreciation once you come back to it. The first few days while you get back into your groove might be a bit of a challenge, but you’ll soon be back in the habit and the flow and surprised at how much easier and how much more fun writing is at that point.
So go ahead, every now and then, set a time limit and then give yourself permission to take a writing vacation. Just a tip – DON’T do this during a writing deadline. It might sound like common sense, but during a deadline you’re going to have to gut it out and meet your deadline. After all, writing is your job (even if it isn’t your full time job) and you are expected to be professional and meet your commitments. Maybe AFTER you meet your deadline would be a great time for a mini vacation – not to mention a yummy butterscotch martini or two!
In any case – happy writing!

One response to “Is it okay not to write?

  1. I agree wholeheartedly. I shut down writing for about two weeks or so every Christmas. I also try to take one day a week where I do no writing and nothing writing-related. I’m in this for the long haul and if I don’t have some kind of balance in my life it would be easy to burnout.

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