How to Take a Break from Writing Without Losing Momentum
In an ideal world, we would all have a fabulous, productive writing session easily every day. But unfortunately, we don’t live in that world.
Writing isn’t the only thing going on in our lives, and sometimes seasons of life come up that make it necessary to take a short break from writing. Last year my husband and I were house hunting (very stressful!) and then moving ourselves and our two young children into the house we bought (also stressful!). I knew I didn’t want to add to my anxiety by worrying about my writing too. It was time for a break. A break with absolutely no expectations of working on my projects.
Now, just to be clear, I’m not talking about a severe mental health crisis. If chronic depression, anxiety, or other mental illness is keeping you from writing, you should absolutely get professional help. I’m also not talking about writer’s block, where you’re just frustrated about a project and need to work through it. What I’m talking about is a season of life with an end in sight. For example, if you’re moving, starting a new job or extra tough semester at school, having a baby, recovering from an accident or illness, planning a wedding or even going through a hard breakup, you may need to press pause on writing until things settle down.
However, we know all too well that sometimes what is supposed to be a break of one or two months can turn into six (or more!) in the blink of an eye. Once we stop, starting again can be a tough hurdle to jump! So, how can you keep that momentum going, even when you aren’t actually writing anything?
Based on my experience, this is how you can maintain your momentum during a temporary writing break.
Listen to What Inspires You
Taking a break from writing doesn’t mean you’re taking a break from doing dishes, exercising, nursing the baby, or driving to work. Put that time to good use by listening to something that inspires you, that makes you want to write. Maybe it’s your favorite writing podcast or a playlist for your novel. Whatever you choose, make it something that keeps your thoughts on writing and helps you generate ideas. That way, it’s easier to get back into your project at the end of your break.
One fun game I started playing with myself while driving was to listen to the radio and see what character or situation in my novel the song related to the most. If nothing really matched, then I’d brainstorm new characters or scenes that would go with the song! I found that was a really fun way to stay connected to my work.
Continue to Brainstorm and Keep Notes on Projects
Even when you’re taking a break, ideas about current and new projects are bound to come in. You may even find that you have more ideas flowing because you’re letting your mind relax a little when it comes to writing. You’ll keep your writing momentum when you write down the ideas that come and continue to brainstorm them when you have a moment (we all know the shower is the best place for that!).
During my break, I had lots of new ideas come to me, specifically two entire new novels! Something about playing outside with my kids gets me in a brainstorming mood. I had a bunch of notes on my phone and in a notebook. By the time I was in a good spot to end my break, I was just itching to get my writing going again because the ideas were starting to overflow! But giving myself time to brainstorm was key, and if I hadn’t taken notes I would’ve forgotten a lot of the details.
Work On Non-writing Creative Projects
You’re a writer, so you know there’s nothing better than feeling intense creative energy. Making something new or transforming something old is exciting! But that feeling doesn’t always have to come from writing. Now, if your season of life is truly too time-consuming or exhausting, this tip may not be for you. However, it doesn’t have to be anything too involved. Just organizing the new baby’s room in a cute way or coloring in an adult coloring book as you watch TV after a long day can help you feel that creative spark.
In my case, I completed a string art project that came in a kit my sister sent me for my birthday while watching TV. I also find that doing puzzles helps me feel creative. Once we knew what house we were buying, I also got to imagine how to decorate it and where to put our furniture. And even though none of those activities were writing related, simply feeling a creative energy always made me feel excited to write again too.
Talk to Your Writing Friends About Their Projects
Just because you’re taking a writing break doesn’t mean that all your writing friends are! Reach out and ask what they’re working on, if they want to talk out any new ideas, or, if you have time, offer to be a beta reader for them. Hearing and reading about other people’s cool ideas will likely make you excited to work on your own again soon.
My sister and my best friend are fantastic writers, and reading their work always inspires me to keep going so that I have something awesome to share with them too. But even if you don’t personally know a lot of writers, there are plenty of other ways to find that motivation that comes from a writing community. Being a part of the Scribbler Facebook page also helped me stay eager to work on my projects. There are always a ton of people posting questions and asking advice about their work. Just a quick scroll makes you want to write more!
Buy a Writing Accessory That Gets You Excited
If getting back into writing after a good break doesn’t sound very fun, make it fun! Buy a pretty notebook, gel pens in a variety of colors, cute sticky notes, a new laptop sticker, a candle, a book of writing prompts, whatever gets you excited to write. You really can’t go wrong as long as you end up inspired to keep working on your projects!
For me, I was pumped about items that I’d gotten in Scribbler boxes and planned how I would use them once I started up again. I’d look at my notebooks and decide how to use each one. I imagined how I would use accessories from the boxes to decorate my new writing space (since we were moving). That helped me plan how to start again.
Make Plans for Starting Again
Don’t just have a vague idea of when you’ll start your writing routine again–make it official! Set a date, even circle it on your calendar, and stick to it. Get your writing space ready to go. Write down what goals you have, whether it’s for word counts or time spent writing. Decide what projects you’re going to work on first. If you go through the trouble of planning it all out, you’ll be more enthusiastic about following through.
This is where I could’ve done better at first. I started up again kind of slowly and my writing days were kind of hit and miss, even though I was still excited about my ideas. Fortunately, I let the excitement of making New Year’s goals get my writing routine really going again and realized how helpful it was to have that official date–January 1–in my head as the day to officially start.
Maintaining momentum in writing can make a big difference. The year I won NaNoWriMo I ended November with a ton of momentum and was just at the climax of my novel, the most exciting part! But I took a break for the holidays and then let life get in the way. Even though I only had about twenty thousand more words to go after November’s fifty thousand, I didn’t finish until May because I’d lost that momentum.
I’m determined to not let that happen to me again, and you don’t have to lose your momentum either! Life happens, breaks are necessary. But when you use that break time in a smart way, you’ll be ready to go again when that break is over!