So, does a holiday from writing work?

Recently — that would be a week ago — I realized that I was not having fun with my writing.  I’d trudge up the stairs to my office, turn on my computer, sigh loudly, and then dick around for a couple of hours.  Anything could pull me away.  If the phone rang, I’d kill myself scampering down the stairs to answer it. And once I was back downstairs,  I’d “realize” it had been days since I did any laundry, and promptly do some. (And since I’ve come up with a rule around laundry, namely that it must be washed, dried AND put away, I felt it was completely within my rights as a human being to sit there waiting for first the washer, and then the dryer, to finish.)  In other words, whenever possible, I was completely avoiding writing.

I must admit, I felt absolutely shameful about this.  After all, this is my chosen profession.  I LOVE writing!  So what the heck was my big problem?

I decided (with the help of a couple of astute friends who were getting pretty tired of my whining) I needed a break.  I’ve been writing more or less continuously for a long time. (And, if I was going to count shame moments, where I chastised myself for NOT writing, there was no break at all.)  So, I decided to take a full week off.

The first day, I felt better than I had in a long time.  I read (without guilt).  I did laundry (again, without guilt. I finally wasn’t procrastinating — I was simply doing laundry!).  Tiny twinges of guilt — especially when my husband asked me how writing went that day, and I told him I hadn’t written a word. (I actually hadn’t told him I was going to take a week off — hedging my bets that I wouldn’t NOT be able to not write for a whole week.) But that was about it.

Days two and three went about the same.  Day four, even better. I actually got some real work — cleaning and organizing work — done in various parts of my house.  More reading (oh joy!) The only one who was suffering from me NOT writing was the goldfish. There were a couple of days (late nights, actually) where I ran up the stairs to throw food at him, because I wasn’t quite sure when I’d last fed him.

Day five. I still hadn’t touched my novel yet, which was the real reason I decided to take a week off in the first place.  But guess what? I was starting to get excited about going up to my office, turning on my computer, and getting back at that second draft.

Day six.  Ideas are starting to percolate again.  Finally.  And new ideas for new stories.  I’ve been jotting them down, and a couple of them look good. Look really good.

Day Seven. Almost felt sad that it was the last day of my “writing holiday.”  Almost. Went to Edmonton Story Slam, listened to all the five minute story contestants, and built stories in my head.  Lots and lots of stories.  And it felt wonderful.

So today’s the first day back.

Do I feel better?  I’m starting to.  Is a week long enough?  I don’t know.  I’ll find out, I guess.  A week is all I’m going to give myself, this time.

But the question I would like to pose to you is:  Do you take time off?  If you do, does it help, or is it the beginning of that long slow slide into not writing anything for months and months? And if you don’t take any time off, how do you keep yourself fresh, so that going into your office and turning on your computer is a joy?

One inquiring mind really  wants to know!

4 thoughts on “So, does a holiday from writing work?

  1. Brent Knowles

    Some days I feel like a break too… I think once this novel revision is done I’ll take a short one… probably no more than week.

    My worry with taking too long a break is that I’ll lose momentum… that was one of my big problems when I had a day job, it would get so busy that I would go months or more without writing and when I did get back to the writing it sometimes felt like I was starting over.

    If I’m really hitting a road block with something writing-wise now I usually just switch projects for a bit. That usually helps especially if the other project is a lot different — i.e., a fantasy story instead of my sci-fi novel.

    – Brent

  2. Lynn

    So glad you listened to your ‘astute’ friends, and their suggestion worked! I think every writer is different when it comes to ‘time off’ ‘ and there is no right or wrong way. Currently my time off has developed into a slow slide of writing nothing, so I need to develop my routine again (and need a push from friends to get me accountable)!

  3. admin Post author

    Brent, I know what you mean about being afraid you’ll lose momentum. It can get so easy to put the writing off “just one more day,” until, suddenly, weeks have passed, and nothing (writing wise) gets done. Good idea about switching projects. A change CAN be as good as a rest!

  4. admin Post author

    Your friends are always ready to give you a push! That slow slide — that is a killer, isn’t it? I run into this too, and wonder why it is so hard to get back to writing, even though I say this is what I want to do? Maybe, as Brent says, it feels like starting over. Or maybe it’s physics. I’m finally at rest — and I want to stay that way!
    Good luck with restarting the writing routine. (Even 15 minutes a day is a start, you know!)

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