Thursday, December 22, 2011

No writing, no guilt.

I had quite the stunning revelation earlier this month.

I didn't enjoy writing.

Somewhere along the way, putting my fingers to the keyboard to work on my WIP went from being a fun sort of challenge to a bout of near-misery.

With the exception of three months for my wedding/honeymoon, I hadn't stopped writing seriously since September 2007 -- over four years of considering every spare moment a writing opportunity.

And eventually, my self-induced pressure to create! and create more! and create better! and create faster! turned my life's passion into something I dreaded. (And it made me a crappy writer.)

I lost the fun. I lost the spark, and I didn't even have external pressures (like, oh, agent or editor deadlines) bearing down on me!

I was crushed.

Writing, whether it was short stories or terrible poetry or diary entries or novels, had been my escape for almost twenty years, and I had somehow ruined it for myself.

It was time to take drastic action.

I decided to go on a cleansing diet of sorts. No more writing. And I wouldn't begin again until I wanted to. There was no impending date of return, no ticking clock. And I scaled back on social media -- bye bye Blogger, ta-ta, Twitter.

I needed to fall in love with writing again.

I needed inspiration.

Going back to the things that made me love inventing stories in the first place was the key. Reading great novels and planning trips to new places (Montreal, Australia, and the Blue Ridge Mountains), watching addictive TV shows, spending time with friends, and just enjoying life was more refreshing than I could've imagined.

I didn't miss the guilt.

For months now, if I chose to use my spare time to do anything other than writing my novel or a blog post, I felt like a failure. Like I wasn't dedicated enough. Like I would never get published. Because writing takes HARD WORK, so if you aren't ALWAYS WORKING HARD, you won't succeed.

(Did I ever tell you guys how intense I can get?)

Lifelong overachievers like myself are quite awesome at building up soul-sucking levels of internal pressure. To a degree, that motivation is a positive thing. Too much, and you turn your life's passion into torment.

The good news? My de-torment-ify-ing experiment worked. It's been a handful of weeks, and though I never really stopped thinking about my novel (I'm a writer through and through, after all), my fingers are starting to itch for the keyboard. (Hence this blog post.)

So if you find yourself in a black hole of writing despair: It's ok to take a break. It's ok to walk away from the computer for days at a time. Life is not about absolutes. It's not all-or-nothing. There's nothing wrong with taking a step back every once in awhile. Remembering why you started writing in the first place. Reviving your motivation.

For the first time in too long, I'm anticipating that feeling you get when you can't sleep because words are buzzing around in your mind, in your dreams even, begging to be written down.

When you count down to the next time you can sit at the computer and type type type until your foot falls asleep and your back is stiff and you're so in the zone that Pandora has to ask you if you're still listening.

When you stare at an unmoving cursor for an hour until you finally have a breakthrough and discover that you've fixed the previously unfixable.

I miss that.

I'm almost ready to begin again.


  1. Thanks for sharing a feeling we all probably get at some point. I did not write for a number of months too. Life was just too busy and I wasn't inspired. Thankfully I'm starting to write again though it's still a bit painful. Good for you for doing what you enjoyed during that phase. And have a happy holiday!

  2. Yes, taking a break is a good thing. I've done it and find that I miss writing then restart with vigor.

  3. Yes! I know exactly what you mean about the whole overachiever-internal pressure thing. Glad you're feeling the itch to write again! Breaks are so necessary. :)

  4. Thanks for sharing. I understand the feeling. I recently took a break and felt guilty about it. While doing other things, I thought I should have been writing. Now I know it was the right thing to do. I'm ready to start again.

  5. So glad to hear you're getting your writing mojo back! And you're right--there's absolutely nothing wrong with taking a break. For me, getting back into the swing of things after taking a long vacation away from computers is the hardest, so I start small--work on a short story, or edit a chapter to rediscover my characters and why I love my WIP.

    Hope you have a happy holiday season and the writing bug comes back, full time.



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