How to Take a Writing Break without Losing Momentum
You may be familiar with the advice to "write every day.” You may have even created a writing ritual or routine to help you with that, but are there ever reasons you should take a break from writing?
Resting can recharge us and refill our creative wells so that we’re more productive during our writing sessions. However, falling away from your routine can potentially set you back and make it difficult to return to the page.
So when is it a good idea to take a break from writing, and how can you take a break without losing momentum? In this post, we’ll look at reasons you may want or need to take a break from writing and tips for making progress even when you’re not writing.
When to take breaks
Times when you may need or want a break from writing include:
After reaching a milestone or new stage in your writing process. This can include finishing the first draft, sending it out to beta readers or editors, or when querying your manuscript.
When going through life or seasonal changes. We all have busy seasons in life. You may be in a transition period where you’re moving homes, changing jobs/careers, or starting a family. You may be in a season where you just need to prioritize other commitments in your life, such as family, work, or your health.
Before you burn out or experience writer’s block. You can lose your spark or joy for writing if you experience burnout, and it can take years to recover from it. If you take scheduled breaks, you can protect your mental health, lower your stress, and stay motivated, which will help avoid burnout.
Taking small breaks can help you avoid writer’s block as well by allowing you to have some distance from your work, and giving you a chance to view it with fresh eyes from a different perspective when you come back to it.
When you need to refill the creative well. If you’re feeling uninspired or uninterested in your current novel or you’ve been avoiding writing, and doing any other tasks–including laundry–is preferable, you may need to refill your creative well. If your creative juices are drained, this can also lead to burnout, so it’s important to take a break and fill that well before you get to that point.
Tips For Taking Breaks
The first thing you want to do when you’re getting ready to take a break is to know why you’re taking a break. Is the break because of a major life change, such as moving homes? You can then schedule your break to end once you’ve moved and settled into your new home.
If you’re feeling uninspired by your story or any of your ideas, maybe you’ll just need a couple of weeks to refill your creative well and get inspired to write again. If you’re on the verge of burnout, you may need a few months or more before you’re ready to come back. Knowing the reason for your break will help you plan and know how long of a break you need to take.
Try to plan for breaks before you think you need one. Refueling ahead of time will help you avoid burnout and writer’s block, so you don’t have to take a much longer break later on. Once you know the reason for your break, decide how long your break will last. Mark on your calendar the date you plan to return to your writing and stick to it.
Make a plan for where to pick up when you get back. Ideally, this would be good to think about before you begin your break. Knowing where you left off in your current project and creating a plan on where and how to pick it back up when you return will help make the process less daunting, so you don’t lose momentum and end up prolonging your return.
Maintain your writing routine
If you’ve developed a writing routine or schedule, then you’ll want to maintain that schedule in order to keep your momentum going and make it easier to return to. Depending on your reason for taking a break, you can fill this time with other types of writing projects or writing-related activities that will help with your writing career.
For instance, if you’re mainly taking a break just to get a breather in between revising drafts, then you may want to work on plotting, outlining, or researching a new story during that time. This could also be a great time to explore and try out other types of writing, such as poetry, script writing, journaling, or even working on blog posts.
Other writing-related activities you could do during this time that are not actual writing include: marketing for your books or creating a launch strategy or campaign, building an author platform and engaging with readers on social media, or creating or updating your website and email newsletters.
Another way to take a break without losing momentum is by doing things that inspire you. Read those books on your never-ending TBR list, listen to podcasts, watch movies or catch up on your favorite show or a new show you’ve been wanting to watch. Visit museums and art galleries, see a play or dance recital, or attend a concert; engaging in various forms of art can spark new ideas and inspire you to write. You can even reorganize and decorate your writing office/space in a new way. Sometimes just making a few minor changes in your environment can motivate you to want to write again.
Talk with your writing friends about their projects and what they’re working on. Listening to other writers talk about their stories and seeing their passion can be contagious, and can spark new ideas for you to work on. You can also offer to be a beta reader for them or just help them brainstorm and work through problems they’re stuck on in their story.
Allow yourself to daydream. Experiment with different ideas and use the “what if” game with your story. What if the story takes place in a completely different setting? What if you told the story from a different POV? What if the story takes place in a totally different time period?
Along with daydreaming, pay attention to your actual dreams as well, even if they don’t seem to make much sense. You never know what dreams could inspire a new idea. If you have kids in your life, talk with them and listen to their daydreams or actual dreams as well. Listen to how they process their dreams and ideas. Kids can be quite imaginative, and their imaginations can be a wonderful source to help you get your creative juices flowing.
Engage in other hobbies or interests
All forms of art and creativity can refuel and inspire you, so try engaging in different creative pursuits. Rather than just visiting an art gallery, consider taking an art class and learning how to draw or paint. Take piano or voice lessons, or attend an improv comedy group. Learn new skills, like interior design or home organization. Immerse yourself in all kinds of creative activities.
Keep learning your craft
Another way to maintain your momentum during a break is to continue learning and improving your writing skills. This is a great time to take a writing course or read books on writing. Three writing books you might want to check out are Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and On Writing by Stephen King.
You can also use this time to study the work of other authors and practice identifying the story beats in their novels. You can use those novels to help improve your weaknesses as well. If one of your weaknesses is writing descriptions, and you like the way an author writes theirs, study what they did. Analyze their sentences and word choice. Look at how they use descriptions to inform the reader about their character’s personality or traits or what they reveal about the world or setting they’ve created.
Then take everything you’re learning and begin incorporating them. You can use writing prompts and exercises for this, start a new short story, or just incorporate it into your current writing project once your break is over. This can also help with our first tip, having a plan for where to pick up your story after a break, so it’s less overwhelming.
Using the tips above, you can keep your momentum going and refill your creative well, so that you're energized and ready to dive back into your novel after your break!