Since August 2012, I’ve been writing the manuscript for my first book. And here it is, two years later, and I’m still scribing. The project began as a journal to document my day-to-day life struggles, but after the first year, my writing took on new meaning—a greater purpose beyond just recording events. It became a platform upon which lives could be changed.
But along the way I found myself less than motivated to write. Frequently. And at first I thought something was wrong. Here I am, working on probably one of the most meaningful tasks of my life, and there are times when I’m just not feelin’ it. I just don’t want to write at all.
I felt bad about it during that first year, horrible even. And the disappointment in myself continued well into my second year of writing. Until I started connecting with experienced authors via social media and reading online articles about the entity called writing. What a beast it is! And what initial excitement a writer may feel—especially if it’s his first opus—to tackle it! But it’s what lies on the other side of excitement that one must be prepared for and expect—those instances when you need to step away and do something else. Anything other than writing. And what I’ve learned is that it is totally normal and, in fact, healthy to do so.
Call it writer’s block or just plain lack of fresh material, but whatever it is, be not dismayed. You are just fine if you reach a point where you have no desire to put pen to paper or finger to keyboard. It’s beneficial to step away for a while, whether it’s for a day, a week or even three, which I’ve done on several occasions. Here’s how:
1. While you’re away from writing, you have more time to fill the basket of your mind with new data. That could be in the form of new encounters, new ideas, or a fresh perspective on an old idea, which can translate into more meaningful content for your book. And we definitely want that, right?
2. Stepping away gives your mind time to rest. As with any other task that involves a considerable amount of thinking, writing can tax our little brains until smoke is shooting from our ears and nostrils. As such, we need to take regular respites from this task to allow our grey matter sufficient time to prepare itself for the next session. And sometimes that may require more than a night’s sleep. So go ahead, feel free to take a weekend or so to enjoy yourself. Many successful authors believe you should write every day. I say. . .your brain will thank you if sometimes you don’t.
3. Time away from your writing can benefit your editing. I’ve learned there are two schools of thought concerning the topic: edit as you go, or do it after you’re finished writing. I believe each writer should choose the method that works best for him. So, for example, if you’re writing a memoir, like I am, and you prefer to edit as you write, then longer and more frequent breaks can provide greater opportunities to review the events you’ve documented so far and ensure that you’ve accurately represented them. Which will only enhance your finished product.
So what I initially viewed as bumps in the road have turned out to be periods of refreshment and renewal. And during those times, I’ve been able to continue with the other areas of my life and not even worry about the writing sitting on hold.
Remember, your manuscript is yours. You are the boss. You set the rules, and you establish the timeline.
It was difficult to grasp that at first because my plan was to maybe write for a year, complete all editing, and then publish. Well, as life is, so goes writing, because the project that began with a one-year deadline has received multiple extensions, since the story I’ve been journaling hasn’t ended yet. And for the longest time I felt like I was late. Then I had to be reminded that this is my project, and if it takes two years or longer, it’s totally okay. . . because I say so.
Please let me know what you think. As a writer, have you ever taken a break from your manuscript? If so, what was your experience when you resumed?
Jay is a retired U.S. Army veteran and owner of I42 Travel Agency. He is currently writing the manuscript for his first book - a memoir about his return to civilian life since retiring from the Army in 2013—and he's working on a travel blog, which will launch early next year. Jay loves reading, exercise, riding motorcycles, tennis, downhill skiing and, of course, traveling. Jay lives in the Twin Cities and has one daughter named Anterra.
Connect with Jay!
Company: I42 Travel Agency
Phone: 612-567-7020 mobile
Now I don't feel bad about stepping away from poetry on occasion! Thanks, Jay. Your turn, dear reader. Leave your comments! --Dara