The Unexpected Benefits of Taking a Break
My husband recently returned from a week-long business trip…and he’d changed completely! I found myself noticing all sorts of sweet things about him, like the way he holds my hand driving back from the airport, the way his cheek dimples when he smiles, the way he fills our mornings with laughter and loud music. I remembered how much I enjoy hanging out with him; I kept thinking of things I wanted to tell him, babbling all the way home the way home. It felt like when we were first dating, when we could spend hours on the phone without running out of things to say.
Okay, I see those raised virtual eyebrows…and you’re right, he didn’t really change. I changed. I had stopped noticing all the things I love about him amidst the day-to-day busyness of errands, vet appointments, and bill-paying. When he left for a while, it gave my brain a chance to reboot!
Sometimes, taking breaks from something—whether it’s a person, a novel rewrite, or a blog—refreshes your ability to see it clearly.
Taking a Break Can Rekindle Your First Love
When I came back to blogging this past month (after a lengthy break!), I was mentally prepared to browbeat myself into bloggish productivity. After all, when I’d stepped back, I was feeling burnt out and out of balance. Blogging had become a chore. Subconsciously, I’d carried that mindset with me; when I debated whether to pick up the blog again—Should I blog again? What should I blog about? What direction should the blog go?—I was debating whether to put that chore back on my to-do list.
As I started digging in, though, I wasn’t hit by the expected weight of another chore. I was hit full force by all the reasons I loved blogging, things like:
- Connecting with all of you, dear readers!
- Helping writers who have wrestled with the same questions or faced the same types of obstacles I’ve faced
- Posing questions about my current questions and obstacles, and hearing your stories and solutions
- Discussing plot development, character creation, and other important questions about the craft of writing
- Sharing cool resources
- Laughing with you over writerly obsessions (can you say compulsive email-checking?*)
- Trading book recommendations
Taking a break refreshed my mind and spirit, rekindling my first love of blogging.
Taking a Break Can Provide Clarity
I’d lost my vision for the blog (burnout will do that to a gal!), and figured I’d have to put my nose to the grindstone to rediscover it. But like the rest of writing, blogging goes more quickly after you’ve done your research. Much of my time away from the blog allowed me to figure out more about who I am as a writer and where I want to go…so when I came back, the vision for where I want to go next sort of fell into place.
If you’re feeling burnt out, overwhelmed, or simply out of ideas, consider taking a break. Rest. Recharge. Work on something else. Take care of other pressing demands on your time and energy. Go on, now—I give you official permission. In fact, here’s a coupon:
Print it out, fill it in, and post it where it can remind you that you aren’t lazy, you aren’t a quitter, and you don’t have to work on anything nonstop!
Taking some time away from your project can help you see the big picture, rather than just a blizzard of overwhelming details. It can help you see what’s working, what isn’t, how things might change. Best of all, taking a break might just return you to your first love.
And isn’t that why we do this writing thing in the first place?
Anyone else have a project where a break might be just what the doctor ordered? Or maybe you have a story like mine, where taking a break brought you clarity on your work-in-progress. Please share in the comments!
*When I started this blog, the issue was compulsive mailbox-checking, because no one accepted digital submissions. I think that was healthier…at least it got me outside!!
Anna-Maria Crum says
I am printing out your coupon. I need it. So often I feel like I have to soldier through and finish something even though it takes me twice as long. I should take a break and then come back to it. I’d finish faster even with a break thrown in. That saying keeps playing in the back of my mind—The fastest way is through begun. I need to turn that off. The fastest way is when you are refreshed and no longer burnt out.
Cheryl Reif says
Yeah, I hear you! It’s SO HARD to quick hacking away at a project sometimes, even when I know I’m not making any progress. Even when I know I’ll be happier, more creative, and more efficient if I stop long enough to take a nap or get some exercise–whatever it is I *actually* need at the moment. Good job turning off that recorded voice! Sounds like you’ve got a rebuttal lined up for the next time it starts nagging at you, too. Yay for breaks!
Patrick Ross says
Kudos for taking a break, Cheryl, and kudos for returning! It’s not uncommon for a blogger to lose their focus; unfortunately, some of them keep blogging regardless. I admire you stepping away and figuring out what you want to do, and then returning. The best blogs evolve over time (or perhaps I’m saying that because my blog has evolved over the last four years, and I need an excuse as to why!).
As for taking a break more broadly, I fully agree. It does fire the creative juices (although I tend to feel guilty while away). I’ve been suffering the post-MFA slump, where your creative self essentially forces you into a break because it refuses to cooperate. I’m clawing my way back into writing, however, and hope to be back in a routine soon.
Cheryl Reif says
There are breaks and then there are BREAKS, and I imagine post-MFA falls into the latter, heavy-duty recovery time category! Thanks for the welcome back–it’s been nice to discover that ultimately, not that much has changed online. At least, not in the blog-o-sphere. Twitter seems to have evolved at a spectacular rate, although I’m finding a few familiar faces there. I think blogs have more staying power because they depend on the backlog of old posts as much as–or more than–churning out new content.