Time Off

With the Christmas break approaching, I’m considering giving myself permission to take a break from writing. I’m wondering if anyone else is in the same boat, and how you feel about taking small hiatuses. Does it help or stifle your creativity? Do you find it harder to get back on the wagon after the break, or when the time comes again you feel energized and ready to go?

I’m feeling a bit drained and directionless. There’s lots of stuff I could (and should) be revising, but I feel like I’ve been revising forever and just want to start drafting again. I never need motivation to draft, but to edit? Egh. I’d rather wash Santa’s underwear than revise.

So I’m looking for a few things if you will kindly indulge–your thoughts on the pros/cons of breaks and also how you stay motivated and on task during revisions. I feel I need a break, but also feel like it’s a bit of a cop out to avoid more revisions. Thoughts?


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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23 Responses to Time Off

  1. Angela says:

    Me too, Kelly!

    Thank you Bish–you’re so awesome!!

    Mary, I’ve been doing the treat route (my vice is online scrabble) and it’s really kept me focused. Yay me!

    Courtney, I agree–I DO need a break. I don’t know why I feel guilt about it,because I shouldn’t. *banishes guilt*

  2. courtney says:

    I think there is total value in taking a break, especially if it’s what your gut is telling you to do. Recharging the batteries is just as important as the writing itself. I feel like writers often feel guilty about considering it because we work so hard to turn writing into a discipline, it feels not-so-good when we stop. But it can definitely be necessary. Don’t beat yourself up! Do what you gotta do.

  3. Mary Witzl says:

    Like many others, I love writing, but find editing and rewriting such a pain — especially when I don’t know what to cut and what to leave, which happens so much of the time.

    When we moved country, I could not easily write for over three months and it was AWFUL trying to get back into it! I forgot which version of the story I’d been working on and ended up doing hours on the wrong piece. If you do take a break, make sure you know which version you’re coming back to — or maybe you’re not like me and you’re already well organized!

    I have to agree with Jill: I give myself little treats after 5-10 pages — a piece of chocolate, a shower, a walk, commenting on others’ blogs…

  4. Bish Denham says:

    Angela, I have nominated you for the Scrap Award!

  5. Kelly says:

    I am so in the break mode right now. I’m getting a little done each week, but there are just too many other things to do!
    Come January, I am going to get cracking again!

  6. Angela says:

    Denise, I envy your ability to get into revising. Me, I think I enjoy the first serious pass through, but then after that…ugh.

    You and me both, Lady G. I’ll cheer you on!

    Jude, I use some tools as well, and I do find it helps. I don’t plan on this being a long break, just a few weeks. I can’t see it stretching longer than that…my brain would probably explode from not writing.

    Merc, I agree, the holidays will mean full days of other stuff and so the focus is on that not ‘not writing’.

    I once took a very long break from drafting to really hone my writing skills (grammar, plotting, story structure, etc). I read a ton of how to books in that time, but what I found is just wat you say…when I wanted to get back into it, I was blocked for a time. Definitely letting a break go on too long can hurt the writing process, at least for me.

    Vijaya, thanks for the warm wishes! I hope everyone has a great christmas with family and friends, and takes the time to enjoy the little moments. That’s what living is all about, the little moments of happiness we share with others!

    Thanks Wingsong. I think this is also why I want to get this latest revision off my plate…I will feel freer to just think about the next book I want to write. If things go well, I’ll have it all worked out enough to start on it by the time I come back. But if I don’t get the editing done, all I’ll be thinking about is how I have to get it doe first, you know?

    CJ, I find that when an idea comes to me, like you, I have to get it down, or at least make notes. This is something that I would do even on break because it actually feels good to go with the spark.

    Again, thanks to eerybody who popped in to add their thoughts! You guys are awesome!!

  7. CJ Raymer says:

    I agree with ya. I have the direction, but my time is so taxed and my schedule so complex that it’s not worth the stress. Even my hubby suggested that I take a break during the holidays to enjoy a stress free time with our family.

    However, if you’re anything like me, I begin to stress about what I should be writing. If I get an idea for dialogue or plotting, I feel the drive to go beyond the jotting down of notes. I find that it takes as much discipline for me to relax as it does to write. Ughhhh!


  8. Windsong says:

    Just echoing the above. 🙂
    If you need a break, then give yourself a vacation. But, like all good vacations, give yourself a time limit, a real date where you know you’ll have to get back to writing or revising. Then set up small, attainable goals.

    I’ve found that if I don’t listen to myself and take the needed break, that it only goes downhill from there. I do need a specific time to start back up, though. Else I keep on vacationing even though my Muse is hollering at me to get going. :$

  9. Vijaya says:

    I’m glad you decided to take a break from the *work* aspect of writing. I think of it as a necessary way to recharge those batteries …

    Too long of a break and I get cranky, but as Bish suggests, always keep that notebook handy.

    Have a wonderful holiday … and wishing you both good health, happiness and success in all your ventures.

  10. Merc says:

    the pros/cons of breaks
    I think it might help during the holidays so you don’t have more stress, and then it’ll give you a chance to re-charge.

    When I finish a novel draft, I need a few days or a week off to let my brain resurrect itself from being set on fire so much. 😉

    The cons, of course, is that re-starting when you’re on a roll can be quite difficult. But I think the pros outweigh them here; with the holidays, you’re doing to be busy, right?

    It might be better to take a break and try not to feel guilty about it. 😛 You can always write if you feel in the mood but shouldn’t make yourself do it all the time when on hiatus.

    If you don’t want to take a break from writing/revising all together, you could do a story just for fun–maybe something you’ve wanted to do for awhile but it doesn’t really work towards being marketable or whatever. Just something fun to play with if you want to.

    how you stay motivated and on task during revisions.
    Er, I don’t, as probably evidenced by my complete and total lack of managing to stay on task for editing novels. ;-( *sighs*

    I go in spurts; get interested in one project and work on it for a bit; get distracted; write something new; eventually come back and poke the in-revision pieces… I probably shouldn’t be one to give advice. O:)


  11. heyjude says:

    It is the human nature to take breaks – or refreshers. For most of us there is a daily one called sleep! Muses need rest too. And MCs.

    However, coming off a loooong hiatus I have to say was a bit tough. A fellow writer (by email) held my hand for the plunge and MC popped right up with a relieved grin to grab the other and yank. Phew!

    Re-write from this distance is interesting but still at times grim. I do find it much easier if I use tools. AutoCrit – PowerWriter – Readability Studio(since my focus is child/YA) – etc. (Not sure your policy on posting links but can give them if you wish)

    All that said – maybe we need one of your posts here to be on ‘needing a break’

    Happy Holidays!

  12. Lady Glamis says:

    Breaks are good. Like any muscle, your brain can get burned out and just needs to rest!

    My brain hurts at the moment, but I have to finish my book for specific reasons, so I’ll just chug, chug along! Editing, here I come!

    Good luck with that break!

  13. Denise Jaden says:

    Great idea for a post!

    I only take very short breaks from writing, but when I do, I always make sure I’m reading. That, for me, really gets the fuel going to start writing again (quite often it’s hard for me to hold back actually).

    As far as revisions go, I actually get addicted to revising. Once I get into a story, I get cranky if I can’t work on it every day. Having fresh criticism helps and I’m eternally grateful to my critique partner/group for that!

  14. Angela says:

    Wow guys–what great responses!

    Jill, I think the work/reward system is a good one. I’ve done it before but it’s fallen by the wayside. I’ll have to get back on the wagon.

    Yuna, I agree, editing is torture. Some people love it, but not I. I also can’t work on two projects at once, meaning editing can easily give way to procrastination if I do keep focused.

    Emina, I agree, breaks are healthy. I just can’t help but feel guilty, but I need to get past that. I guess the guilt comes from knowing how slow this industry is…and taking a break is somehow purposely delaying things further. Gah!

    CR, I think that I do need a break. And by giving myself permission, the break is productive, rather than procrastination that just makes me feel bad. I’f I’m going to take a break, it should be to fill my creative well, not to fill myself with guilt.

    Beth, I agree, when it isn’t going to work, the best thing isn’t to force it–good advice.

    Becca & PJ, I plan on gtting some good reading in. I’m actually looking forward to it, and I want to read for pleasure more so than for craft skills. I know I’ll absorb as I go though, so it’s a win-win!

    Thanks Bish. I have to write ideas down as they come too, or I’ll lose them/think later on that they weren’t as cool as I first thought.

    Rachel, great advice. I think the time limit is sensible, and keeps the break into perspective.

    Thanks everyone for their great comments. I think I do need some time off, and I also need to move forward into a new project as it’s been a long slog of revision (three novels in a row). I know I should take another pass at revising one of those novels again, but I just NEED to draft something new.

    I think I’ll use the break as incentive to finish the revision for my current book, setting the end of the week as my target to finish, then take until the new year off. I have a kitchen reno on the 5th of January, so I may take that first week to outline, but I’ll be back at it AND working on something new.

    Woot! I’m looking forward to it!

  15. If you feel like you need a break, and don’t take one, you’ll just keep feeling like you need a break! 🙂 Everyone needs time away from work, so take some time off, but mark the day on your calendar that you need to come back.

  16. Bish Denham says:

    I’m with you Angela, the revising part is a drag for me.

    I think breaks can be a good thing, but keep the old journal handy. I get so mad at myself when a thought/idea/sentence comes into my head and I don’t have a piece of paper handy and I think, “Oh! That’s a good one, I’ll remember that.” And I then I don’t and it’s gone, poof! like so much invisible gas.

    Or maybe like Jill said, set yourself some small goals when editing and do your best to not look at the whole BIG thing. That’s what I have to do.

  17. PJ Hoover says:

    If you think you need a break, then take it. But focus on reading as much as possible. Or reading a book on craft. Just to feel like it’s not a total vacation 🙂

  18. Becca says:

    I’m kind of in the middle of a big long break right now, and I think that if you do choose to take one, it’s important to stay involved with writing at some level–journaling, following other writer’s blogs, reading good books in your market, etc. Secondly, I think a deadline for your break is a good idea. Say, you’ll take two months off and re-evaluate at the end of that time.

    As far as your question regarding breaks from revision, I honestly don’t know. I think a person can keep drafting and drafting and drafting and end up with two dozen well-loved but unpublishable books. Ideally, we should look back periodically on our works and still love one (or more) enough to dive back into the revising. I guess my gut says that if you’re sick of revising the stuff you’ve been working on, it’s time to take a break.

  19. beth says:

    I take breaks all the time, but I don’t call them breaks. I call it life. Yesterday, I wanted to edit and revise my manuscript. After all, I want to finish by Dec. 31, and the sooner, the better. But instead, I baked Christmas cookies and wrapped presents. Life just happens–and if I had tried to force myself to work on my book when I was tired from everything else, it would have sucked, and I would have had to start over. I write when I want to, and don’t when I don’t–and as long as I want to write more than I don’t, I’m doing well. The only time I really force a schedule on myself is when I know that I’m facing something difficult, like revisions or a tough scene, and I know I’m just procrastinating.

  20. C.R. Evers says:

    I’m in a break mode right now. I have too much to do with Christmas stuff right now. Plus, I’m in the middle of the writing blues. I’m finishing up another set of revisions before sending it out to an editor that expressed interest. I have until March. But I’m in a rutt. I know I’m going to get rejected, so why try so hard? I know that’s a bad attitude, but during this Christmas frenzy, I can’t help it. There’s too much to do, and I have perpetual nasty colds to deal with on top of it all. I”m worn out.

    So, I decided to give myself the month of December off and then I’ll go back to my revisions in January, hopefully refreshed.

    I don’t really like to take time off of writing, but I wonder if I need it. So, I”m giving it a try. Now seems to be as good of a time as any.

    Good luck! Don’t feel bad if you think you need a break.

  21. Emina says:

    Interestingly enough, I find the holidays more inspirational to write. Wrote 11k last New Years Eve.

    I think you deserve a break. I wouldn’t force any revisions and such, but if you get the itch to revise/write go ahead.
    And breaks are healthy. 🙂

  22. Yunaleska says:

    Yup, all in favour of taking a hiatus every now and then. Most often mine are enforced by germs. I hate it, but the little energy I have must first go to getting myself better, then fun things 🙂 I don’t necessarily ‘enjoy’ the break, but when I get back to writing I’m all rearing to go and full of ideas and mostly the chapters fly off my fingers.

    As for editing – *shudders*. Just coming into that little world. Why is writing ever seen as glamorous? Editing = torture on a grand scale. Self-torture at that. I hate it but, as you say, it does make the piece stronger overall. And the satisfaction when its done – haven’t felt it yet, but it keeps me going.

    have to confess, I still write drafts while I edit – if I edited solely on one piece, I’d go insane. Well, more than I already am.

  23. Jill Wheeler says:

    I give myself a goal, like editing 5 pages, and then I let myself go read blogs or take a hot shower or read a bit of a stupendous novel.

    But then, of course, the trick is getting myself to go back to editing. So you have to set a time limit for your treat and then go back and edit some more before your next treat.

    I’m with you. I’m hating the editing, but I do know it’s making the ms much better in the end.

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