Just the other day, I filled half a page with a brand new story idea, one that interweaves sacrifice and loyalty, action and inaction, what we owe ourselves vs what we owe each other, with a little – or rather a lot – of magic on top. Last week I wrote two short stories out of the blue and the week before that I figured out how to fix a fundamental pacing flaw in my WIP.
This would all be very uninteresting – boastful, even – if I hadn’t been 100% convinced the week before that, that I’d never have another idea again, that maybe this whole writing thing really wasn’t for me, that Chronicles of Ghadid was the only idea I’d ever have, that it was time to throw in the towel and go herd sheep.
I turned in Book 3 at the end of August, two months past when I’d originally planned, after pouring my heart and tears – and maybe a little blood – into it. And then I thought, well – what’s the best way to stay distracted while I wait for my editor to read it?
If you guessed “take a break,” then you haven’t known me long enough.
I did, in fact, plan to take a break. A month-long one where I’d read and go for long walks and play with the Toddler and all that other lovely, relaxing stuff that’s supposed to recharge you. But in my heart that break had always been a lie and within two days I was back at the keyboard at 5am, a new word document open, ready to go.
Except… not at all ready to go. The words I’d assumed were there, were not. The WIP I’d been chewing on for years already refused to budge past the first page. I wrote and rewrote the first few paragraphs a dozen different ways. I went for long walks. I listened to music. I took another few days off. I tried again. But the words still didn’t come. It was as if I’d used them all up. Perhaps I had.
I wish I could say I took the hint and gave myself the rest of the month off. Alas, that was not, in fact, the case. The last time I’d taken a break that lasted any longer than a week was when I’d been pregnant, and 99% of that was because I was just so exhausted all the time. But apparently after writing and editing three books, I needed more than just a few days off.
I kept fighting the break until November, when I committed to participating in National Novel Writing Month in the hopes that would be the kick-in-the-pants I needed. And it was! …for about a week.
Finally, finally, I took the hint. I still showed up to #5amwritersclub, but this time I worked on the blogposts for the Debutante Ball and other writing projects. I wrote reviews for all the amazing ARCs I’d read so far. I even wrote a blogpost or two over at my main blog. I told my wife maybe I used up all my fiction words for the decade. I despaired and I worried and – finally, finally – I accepted that I just wasn’t writing at the moment. I didn’t know how long it would last, if I’d burned myself out forever, or if I just wasn’t meant to write while actively corralling a Toddler.
Then, surprisingly, confoundingly, thankfully, only a few weeks after I gave in, the words came back. Like a flip had been switched, I could see plot and story and characters again, and worlds began to build themselves as they once had, just out of reach but maybe still within grasp.
This is all to say -I don’t take breaks without a fight. I’m not the one to come to about advice for taking breaks. But I can say this: breaks are necessary. Even short ones. It might not always be easy to take a break – it might, in fact, be quite difficult. An outright fight. But they are worth that fight; you are worth that fight.
And if you don’t – well, your brain just might take a break without you.