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The Writing Life: Taking Time Off

2 May, 2010

I’ve mentioned here before that this year I decided to keep a running total of my entire word count for the year (which comes to around 40k at this point, in case anyone’s interested). Looking at this running total today though, I noticed something interesting: I’ve just taken almost exactly a month off writing new words, be they part of a novel or short story. I’ve done a lot of planning and editing, but until the start of this week, it had been a month since I’d written anything new.

There are, quite clearly, dangers to doing this. The only way to improve your writing is to write and sometimes it’s the very act of writing that actually brings inspiration. Stop writing for too long and it can be incredibly difficult to get back into the habit of it – there’s a very good reason that many authors suggest writing every day.

Despite all this though, taking a break has been exactly what I needed. Writing too much without any clear goal in mind is, for me, exhausting, effectively sucking all the joy out of writing and turning it into a chore. Taking a month off allowed me to decide what I want to work on next and to build up, from a combination for research and planning, the enthusiasm to dive into it. It’s not just this one project though: with a month off writing, I quickly began to miss the whole process and was reminded that I do this because I’m passionate about it, not because I’m being forced to.

Taking time off writing may not work for everyone, particularly if you feel you’re in danger of giving up entirely, but it can equally help give you a fresh perspective on your work, reminding you how much you love it and helping you decide which direction to head in next. Perhaps, in future, I’ll set a definite date for starting writing again after any breaks I take, but I certainly won’t rule out taking them in the first place.

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