Thursday, February 19, 2015

Why It's Okay to Take a Step Back From Writing

No matter how stressful writing can be, I think most (if not all) writers can agree that it's a large, very happy part of our lives. It's fun, and in many cases it's the one place where we can really be ourselves, especially when we find The One.

You know what I'm talking about: you've written many other ideas, finished some books, but sometimes they just don't grab you as much as they could. You get bored of it. Yet every now and again you find The One, and you can spend as much time as you can imagine on it and never get bored. It's the manuscript you've been waiting for to hopefully publish one day because it's important to you.

Yet even The One can give you too much stress. It happens. You write, and you write, and you rewrite, and you edit, and you add some scenes, and you cut a character, and you fill in plot holes only to find there's now more plot holes. You're dedicating your life to make this thing perfect and sometimes it's just not working.

One of my biggest pieces of advice for new writers (and many who have been writing for years) is to put away your novel once you've finished it for the first time. Give yourself a week, two weeks is better. Don't look at it and, if you can help it, don't even think about it. That'll help you look at it with a fresh eye when you go back to start revising.

That's one reason to take a step back.

There's another reason: sometimes, the stress becomes too much. No matter how hard you work on it, maybe things just aren't coming together. You've lost yourself, and if it starts becoming more like a chore than an intriguing puzzle, then maybe it's a sign that you need to put it away for a few weeks.

Put simply: maybe you've been working on it for too long; the stress to make it live up to what you know it can be can burn you out.

And that's okay. You might need to just take a break and focus on other things, even if those other things are other ideas you've had floating around. It's okay to cheat on your manuscript, because oftentimes you need a way to stretch that creativity in directions that your manuscript won't allow you, maybe due to plot/genre restrictions, or even the format. Try writing a poem or short story instead of a novel; grab a coloring books and scribble outside the lines.

Getting burnt out happens. It's nothing to feel guilty about, either. Because you don't need to write every single day to be considered a writer, and often times you need to clear your mind and come back with that fresh eye I talked about, even if you're in the middle of a sentence when you need to stop.

It's all about mental health: sometimes we tend to stress ourselves out over things in our novel that are actually quite simple to figure out. Take some time away, and come back only when you feel like you're ready and eager to dive in again.

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Blogger @Rae_Slater says you have nothing to feel guilty about if you take a step back from your writing. Here's why (Click to Tweet)

If writing starts to feel more like a chore than an intriguing puzzle, consider taking a writing break (Click to Tweet)


  1. So true! I've gotten burnt out many times and I used to be afraid to take a break from my work. I felt guilty, like I was abandoning it, and I was afraid if I took a break I would never finish. But I've learned not only is it okay to take a break, but it's okay to stop writing a novel if it's not working.

    I'd worked on this one fantasy trilogy for years and when I stopped, I realized after my break that I wasn't ready to come back to it yet. This led me write other things and grow as a writer. Will I ever finish it? Maybe. But getting burnt out on it was one of the best things that happened to me.


    1. I absolutely hate taking breaks in the middle of WIPs. Once a draft's done? Sure. In the middle? I feel guilty, too.

      I've got so many unfinished ideas, though. Honestly, many of them I'd love to go back and finish, but only when the time's right and, most of all, I can give it the attention and respect it needs.

      Thanks, Kaitlin!

  2. I put away a first draft for months. When I hear it calling to me, then I go back. And usually by then, I've forgotten everything and can find all the things that don't make sense. :) Breaks are necessary! *high five*

    1. *high fives back*

      That's a great process! I don't know if I could manage to wait months (usually about one is my limit). But yes, breaks!