We writer types are a fine bunch. We write. We write about writing. We write about what others say about writing. We write about the fact that writing makes us authors … and then we write some more.
Recently, Martin Crosbie wrote about writing words—lot’s of them—every day.
I respect what Martin does and he is certainly a leader amongst our Indies Unlimited family and beyond. His example is inspiring and sets the bar for what us writer types should be doing.
But, what happens when that doesn’t work? What happens when you don’t write? I’ve read many times from several fellow authors that they write because they cannot not write. However, there is this little thing called life that gets in the way at times.
Have you ever gone a day without writing? A week? Have you ever pulled up your WIP and noticed that the last save date was more than a month ago? Does that make you not a writer?
We read so many inspirational stories in these pages. Tons of tips on how to improve your writing, write more and prioritize your writing. The funny thing is—it doesn’t always work out that way.
So, here’s my message to all of you who can’t pound out 1,000 words a day or worse, just can’t write every day.
It’s okay. Writing is one of those strange things that you can always pick up at any time. Sure, you might have to read a couple of pages to get back into the groove. Once you do, chances are, you’ll be writing faster than ever. I know it can be tough around here sometimes. We hear the great success stories and then we look at what we’re doing and it can be a little depressing.
Have no fear. Only you know what your situation is and what you are capable of. Okay, maybe you don’t quite know what you’re capable of because most people underestimate that part. The fact is, Indies Unlimited is a true support group. Everybody does this thing at his or her own speed. If you haven’t penned an original thought in over a month … it’s okay. If you haven’t published … it’s okay. If you haven’t submitted a flash fiction piece … it’s okay.
Sometimes, we are so hung up on the fact that we are not writing, that it becomes counterproductive. Remember, we become what we think about the most. Turn the negative thoughts into a positive. Let it be okay to go a while without writing. Give yourself permission to slack off. It’s important to make a conscious decision about NOT writing, rather than beating yourself up each day because you didn’t have a CHANCE to write.
As a sales manager, I used to tell my reps that all the time. Rather than spin your wheels for eight hours being non-productive, call it a day and go have fun. It’s the same thing with your writing. Sometimes, you just need a break. Take it consciously. Make the decision and then get back to writing with a willful, rejuvenated attitude.
21 thoughts on “Do You Deserve a Break Today?”
Bless you for this one, Jim. 🙂 Guess I’ll just fess up and be done with. I only write when I’m in the mood, which isn’t necessarily every day, or every week. Sometimes I do 14-16 hour binges for days at a stretch, other times not a sentence is written. But this lack of structure might come from being a retired copywriter who endured more than 20 years of grueling deadlines. The last thing I want now that I’m free of those stomach-turning deadlines is self-imposed deadlines. I can’t help wondering why writers who aren’t under the gun of a publisher’s expectations would feel pressured to perform every day.
Thanks, JP! I’ve never been under the gun of a publisher’s deadline, however, I have been under the gun of my own deadlines. Sometimes the structure helps, sometimes it hurts. I couldn’t imagine being under the pressure of deadlines for 20 years.
Good points. If, however, you’re writing for deadline, as I once had to do when I worked for a couple of newspapers in North Carolina, you have to write every day. The secret, I think, is to carve out some down time during that day to do something else to rejuvenate your body, spirit and mind.
I agree, Charlie. Taking time to replenish your mind, body and spirit is essential. And I’ll add … Charlie, you are a great example of pounding out great pieces on a daily basis.
Thanks for that, Jim. I usually work in a little writing time every day, but when I don’t, it’s okay. At my age, the fact that I’m writing at all is somewhat of a miracle!
Thanks for commenting Helen and I don’t think it’s a miracle at all, you can keep writing for as long as you like. Keep up the great work.
I agree, Jim. I often get my best ideas when I’m in my garden or doing crosswords. These periods look like breaks – and they are, but they are also fruitful times. The trick is to recognize when a break becomes procrastination.
Ah, yes, Yvonne. Great point, “recognize when a break becomes procrastination”. I love it.
Good piece Jim. I’m not one of those people who write because they “have to”. Like J.P. I write when I’m in the mood and when I have time. I have a rich and varied life, with writing being one dimension of that. Since publishing my book the biggest problem and time sink is all the ancillary stuff around the book – keeping up a blog; reading other peoples blogs; trying learn, understand and summon some enthusiasm for social media, etc. That’s eating up most of the precious hours I used to have for writing.
I’m with you on that, John. I consider my life much the same, and yes, all this other stuff that goes along with publishing is a huge time sink. That’s why getting that second book out is such a huge victory.
Jim, you’re dead on here. I, like many, don’t keep to a schedule and don’t produce x number of words a day. I have had dry periods of many, many months. Am I still a writer? Absolutely. There’s a lot of non-writing work to take up the dry times, like blogging, promoting, researching, percolating. It all goes into the big soup in my brain and eventually will pour out into a book. Great post.
Thanks, Melissa. I agree, the dry periods are never writing free. Also, I believe that writing different types of things keeps you sharp-blogging, commenting and even posting on sites. Everything helps us get better for when we jump into the next book.
Well said, Jim. I find myself writing my work in progress at all sorts of unpredictable times. I have it turning over in the back of my mind almost every waking hour and probably unconsciously through the other hours. I reckon a lot of our writing is actually done before it reaches the stage of visible words. I’ve long ago stopped feeling guilty that I’m not typing a set amount daily. Sometimes I might put a thousand or two words down; other days a hundred or none might appear. My new book is coming together sporadically in an enjoyable way.
I think you just nailed it Stephen. Your book is coming together in an enjoyable way. If it is not fun and enjoyable, what’s the sense, right? Thanks for sharing.
Spinning your wheels and being non-productive as a writer can be like a muscle car spinning its wheels and not getting anywhere, then suddenly rocketing down the road in a screeching cloud of smoke and rubber. Spin those wheels, smoke up the street and maybe something will come firing out.
Working out is like writing. You cannot imagine not doing it, until you don’t do it. Then you can’t imagine doing it again. I know everyone’s different, but when I take a short break, it turns into months. Other things take the place of my writing time, and the longer I go without writing, the stronger those writing substitutes become ingrained in my routine.
Taking a break is always good advice, but maybe not for everybody.
Great analogy Kenyon. I wasn’t suggesting that everyone should take a break, just that for some, it’s okay. I lean a little more on your side than the other, when I break, look out, it will be a long one so not taking a break is usually better for me.
Thank you and bless you for this! I have been unable to write for a while and been beating myself up about it! I don’t know why this makes it better, but it does. Thank you!
Thanks, Jen. I love it when we share something that helps.
Awesome post, Jim! I was beating myself up for not being as productive as I usually am before I realized the remodeling we’re doing on our house was sucking up all my energy. Now I allow myself a lighter schedule–and, thankfully we’re closing in on the hardest part of the remodel. Phew! Can’t wait to get back to my characters…
That’s it! I’ve had it, I’m taking the rest of the day off. Good article, Jim. Well said.
Hey, if Martin can take the day off, I can, too! 😀 Great post, Jim. You’re right — the key is to have fun and not beat yourself up.
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