Learning When to Take a Break

As much fun as writing can be, fiction or nonfiction, sometimes you need a break. This break relies heavily on many things: whether or not you need it, how long it is, what it will be spent doing, and so on. However , the “need” for a break can turn into a lazy urge to do nothing.

That is certainly not my exhortation. Breaks (especially long ones) don’t necessarily need to be planned (though you can if you want), but you should certainly only take a break when the time is right. This means you need to employ some careful deliberation and discernment.

First of all, you need to judge “how bad do I need it?” by “how bad do I want it?” If you simply want a break, this is enough to bring the question of a break onto the table, but can be overruled by deadlines, goals, and other “need to do” things. However, if you feel that you need a break, you’d better drop what you’re doing fast.

You probably know when you want a break. But judging whether or not you need a break is much harder, especially if you want to write and need to take a break. You need to be your own physician, and that involves keeping your own wants out of the equation. This is difficult, of course. But there are a few questions that you can ask yourself that may prove crucial to answering the question.

One, is the quality of your work suffering? Do you find it hard to come up with new ideas? Does writing dialogue become increasingly difficult for you? Do your characters kind of “meld together” as they seem to become clones of one another? If so, you may want to consider taking a break.

Two, do you still want to keep writing? Are you beginning to dread your daily writing sessions? Do you think, “Oh, brother, I have 500 more words to write today. *sigh* May as well get to it.”? This is sometimes the inevitable, and is often the product of long afternoons spent writing. Humans eventually lose their motivation. But you’re just tired, and that’s a fact. Writing may be a hobby, but it’s also work. You need to take a break from that, too every once in a while. If you lose your motivation, it’s anyone’s guess about how much of a break you’ve earned.

Three, are you beginning to cheat? If your daily quota is five hundred words, do you regularly knock off at 400? Do you find yourself saying “eh, good enough” to unsatisfactory work or amount of work? This cheating is usually a product of losing your motivation, and this is typically the stage before you lose most of your drive to keep writing. Consider taking a break if you see this, too.

One note on taking breaks: a writer who’s taking a break from writing is still a writer. There is no question about that. Even though you may be taking a break from the actual writing process itself, don’t let the time go to waste: think, scheme, and plan. Use an hour or so to think up new ways to fill plot holes and to get rid of blockages. Watch or read something that inspires you. Think up new ideas for books and record them.

You’re a writer 24/7, and this includes when you’re not writing. In fact, even thought you may pride yourself in the sentiment that “I write every day”, you still sleep off a third (or more) of every twenty-four hours, take lunch and dinner breaks, and spend time with family. Writers do not spend their entire lives in writing, but they do spend a good deal of it in the art. Just because you’re taking a break is not an excuse to drop your identity as a writer.

Good luck, and happy writing!

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Be sure to check out my latest novel, Book 1 in the Praetors of Lost Magic Series, and our Publications page. Until then, writers!


Published by Van Ghalta

A cold, dark, mysterious character who purposefully wrote a story so that he could fit into it...A story where he himself WRITES stories, practices martial arts, blogs, plays airsoft, collects MTG trading cards, plays outdated video games, and writes weird, third-person bios for himself...

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