How To Take A Break From Writing Without Losing Your Motivation

Writing when it’s going great makes you feel invincible. The words are flowing, the scenes are coming together. You’ve solved that one plot hole you didn’t think you’d dig your way out of. The dialogue is on-point and your imaginary friends are talking. The muse has even blessed you with an abundance of ideas after all your sacrifices of chocolate.

Then there are the times when it’s not great. The days when doing the task before you is so unimaginable you want to give up.

On those days, all the flaws stick out and you can’t unsee them. To make it worse, you don’t know how to fix them and the anxiety is making that one thing you love not fun anymore.

You dread sitting down at those keys and tapping out a sentence. This isn’t the first draft when you’re putting down any words—good or bad. This is the I’ve-lost-count-of-all-the-drafts draft. The I’ve-been-working-on-this-for-years draft. The it-took-me-endless-edits-to-realize-I-can’t-write draft. And you don’t know what to do.

You could give up. It’s the easiest solution. But did you create all those drafts to do that? Is that why you started writing in the first place? What you need to do is take a break.

But if I stop writing for any length of time, I don’t know if I’ll come back to it! That’s a fair point, one I’ve struggled with too. But there is a way to save your sanity, rest like you need to, and not give in to the desire to send your hard-earned words to the recycle bin.

You need to take a break without losing your motivation.

Read

Read the novels you love. The kind that inspired you to write. Read books that are bad, ones that will remind you that you aren’t the worst writer in the world (they’re out there, some on bestseller lists). Immersing yourself in words might be the last thing you want to do, but that’s your words. Take a break from them while staying inspired by the words of others.

Write Blogs or Journal

Whenever I’m in the midst of downtime between editing drafts, I’ll knock out a few extra blog posts. This serves me well by creating a stash of posts for when life gets in the way, and it keeps my word-smith skills sharpened. When you’re sick of working on your book, writing blogs will keep you in the writing game, just on a different game board.

As for journaling, it’s a great way to let your creative disappointment loose on the page, even if you’re the only one who reads it. Let your frustrations out and don’t worry about telling, not showing, getting every comma in place, or the million other rules that drove you to burn out. Express yourself however you want and write your way into and out of your break.

Catch Up On What Others Are Doing

If you’ve bookmarked blogs by other writers you intended to read but so far haven’t, or absently liked Instagram feeds without interacting, now is your chance to see what your fellow writers are up to. This will keep you active in the writing community even though you’re not actively writing.

For non-writer catchups, if you haven’t seen any friends in awhile because you canceled your social plans to fail at writing, get out into the real world! Book a coffee date (but not for coffee because coffee is gross), or go to the movies. Bask in what you’ve been missing out on while slaving away at the keyboard and let it inspire you. That way, when you’re back at that desk, you’ve got new experiences to turn into sentences.

Get Away

If you can, make some of those new experiences a getaway! Away from your desk and away from your life (for a bit). Take a day trip somewhere. Head into the city, head into the country. Do something non-writing related that will enrich your writing life. You can’t write about experiences if you don’t have any. Smell the country air and save the senses for a scene. The break will also clear your mind.

Spend Time With Your Thoughts

Take a walk without headphones. Fill up a bubble bath. Find a place where you won’t be bothered and converse with yourself (maybe not aloud, though). Why are you fed up with writing? Is there a way to work around the problem? What has made it so unbearable? Can you fix it? Do you want to fix it? Ask yourself all the questions you need, even if you can’t answer them just yet.

Go Over The Good

There must be a piece of writing you love or great feedback someone has sent you. Gushing praise from a beta reader or a five-star review. An article you penned that was published somewhere. A blog post overflowing with awesome comments. A collection of words you cobbled together that others liked enough to compliment. Read that. Or Google motivational quotes. Anything that will remind you at some point you wrote something worth it—and that you can do it again.

By doing activities that allow a break from writing, while still keeping you in the writing world, you might just find what you need to reset your mojo. Hopefully, it’ll bring back that spark, the reason you sit at your desk day-after-day. And if it doesn’t, take another break until you get out of the spiral.

All things—good and bad—end at some point. Ride it out, write it out. Create when you can, take a break when you have to. And don’t forget to keep your chocolate supply stocked and a pen and paper always on hand.

What do you do when you need to put some space between yourself and your words? Let me know in the comments.

— K.M. Allan

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23 thoughts on “How To Take A Break From Writing Without Losing Your Motivation

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  1. Wonderful advice–especially spending time with our thoughts. I’m always amazed to find how much silence I take up with the radio, etc. When I purposefully seek out silence, I can work out plot twists and turns or lines I’ve been stuck on. For me, a quiet shower yields the best inspiration!

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  2. Loved this article! When I need a break from writing, it helps me to listen to things. I spend so much time staring at the screen that it’s really refreshing to step away. A lot of the time I’ll find a stand-up routine on Netflix (preferably a self-deprecating one, so I feel like someone understands me lol) and then just listen and immerse myself in other people’s funny writing for a while!

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  3. Great advice, as always! I am always torn between “it’s okay to take a break” and “what if I lose my creative energy?” but your tips are a perfect way to get the balance right. Fantastic post ❤ x

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I try not to read stuff I find very badly written, because it leads me to think “this is how readers react to my novels” and makes me want to delete, delete, delete everything I’ve written. I usually plough through. My working method is differemnt from yours in that I don’t really do a first draft – I tend to edit while I write, so when I finish putting the story down on paper, I’ve usually gone through a few edits, re-reads, re-writes all along. But then I revise and edit and revise and re-read again for hours on end. I tend to get the I CAN’T WRITE ANYMORE bug once a month, and usually just keep writing, Sometimes I leave that MS alone for a few days, focus on other things, if I’m editing something else, I work on that, if I have other ideas for other books, I work on them (this is how the Blood Trilogy happened, btw, I was struggling through my Arthurian saga and had to do something else for a bit). I don’t tend to take breaks from writing, but maybe I really should!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I live in a college town and it rains a lot. Those two things help when I’m having a bad writing day or week. A walk around the University of Oregon campus on a rainy day does wonders for my mind.

    Maybe it’s the energy found a campus, the rain that I love or both. Whatever it is, it works.

    Your post keyed on that: Do whatever it takes to get those creative juices flowing. It all starts by stepping away from your work. Sometimes that’s the hardest part.

    Thanks!!!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. When the words are misbehaving, I like to be creative in different ways. I might go for a walk with my camera, for example, or experiment with a new design for a book cover. It’s also good to watch a favourite movie or TV show – engaging my senses in a different style of storytelling can be just the inspiration I need!

    Liked by 2 people

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