Tuesday, May 24, 2011

When Not To Write

You've been there. We all have. You want to write. You need to write. But life just gets in the way. The kids are sick. Work is physically and mentally draining. Your obligations at church are time consuming. Your children's activities require your time and attention. You know the drill. Life happens.

So is it okay to set aside your writing for a time? There are many who believe you must write every day. No matter what. You get in your 1000 words a day. Period. You can't be a real writer if you can't push through the busyness of life, right?

Well, I certainly hope that is not the case, because there are seasons in my life when I have to stop and let the stories lie fallow. I am in one of those seasons right now due to my job at an elementary school and having a daughter graduate. It has been a crazy month, sapping my energy and creative thought.

There are times when you have to give yourself permission to stop writing and focus your attention on life's issues. It is difficult to not feel guilty, but if you don't surrender to God's whisper to take a break, you will be defeating His purpose for you. You will make yourself crazy trying to cram it all in each day, and your words will suffer.

Give yourself the gift of freedom. Freedom from guilt. Freedom to focus on the here and now--the urgent, the necessary. You won't loose your creative spirit. That gift is from God and will bubble forth when you are ready to release it. The stories will spew upward with renewed energy and your writing will take off like a racehorse at the starting gate.

Remember, it is only for a time. Only for a season. Give yourself a break.

Have you ever taken a rest from writing? If so, what circumstances caused you to do so?


*Clock art from A River of Design

18 comments:

Alison Stevens said...

I needed this post! I'm in a similar position. We're moving from Europe to the U.S. in a few weeks, and it's hard to think about anything remotely writing-related. Thanks for gift of freedom. I needed it. :)

Lynda Kachurek said...

Thanks so much for sharing this with us! I'm caught in the midst of just such a moment and needed a reminder like this! I cut my right-hand ring finger while baking desserts Easter weekend, severing the tendons in my finger. Now 3 weeks post-op, I'm still in a cast for a few more weeks and trying to keep up with everything left-handed, including writing. This morning was one of those where all I could see was what wasn't getting done (let alone done well), so this post is especially welcome! Thanks!

Sarah Forgrave said...

Oh yes, I just got done with a break. During my sister's heart transplant journey, I was doing good to get out of bed and get my teeth brushed, let alone finding my laptop and writing a story. The creativity was just sapped out of me. And since I write fiction with humor, the "funny well" was all dried up.

Now that I'm back at it, the creativity is flowing again, but it did take me a few weeks to get it pumping. :)

Joanne Sher said...

I had a few years when I barely wrote a word. When it started, my husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor, I was six months pregnant, and I had a very active toddler. By the time it was over, my husband had had three brain surgeries, a blood clot in his lung, six weeks of daily radiation and a year of chemotherapy. Oh - and my kids grew. I often said I used all my creativity during that time to stay alive.

Once things stabilized, I got back to writing. And it felt good :)

Casey said...

Very encouraging post, Sherrinda. Thank you for sharing that. Boy are those times around us, aren't they? I have no excuse, so I have to push through anyway. :-)

Wendy said...

I have a friend who is doing this now--trying to reexamine her role as a writing.

I find the best breaks are between novels (where I'm at right now) but it wigs me out, too. It's like I don't know what to do with myself. Write short story? Plot next novel? Sitting still has always been difficult for me. I'm a mover. ;)

~ Wendy

Mary Vee said...

Sherrinda,
Ever get that feeling that you're the only one experiencing something? Thank you for this post. My daughter's graduation open house, 18th birthday, and graduation are all this weekend. I haven't focused on writing other than my blogs for two weeks. I felt guilty, sad, unorganized yet I've put in more hours and had less sleep preparing for this wonderful weekend.
As I read your post I thought of Sunday dinners slowly cooking in the oven while I attend church. When I get home, I dress the meal set the table, and well, assemble what God has cooked, add other great side dishes and serve the meal. This is the time for our stories to cook. Later, at the right time, we can finish the work.

tomakechristknown said...

Thanks for reminding us we are still human beings, after all - with life beyond the keyboard.

Jan Cline said...

Relationships and personal sanity come first. We need to give ourselves permission to take a break. Ive done it and it's hard, but sometimes it just has to be done. Our gifts and talents wont suddenly disappear.
Jan

Angie said...

I feel like when I try to push myself to write when life is crazy around me, then I become grumpy and short with everyone! It is at these moments, that I focus more on the writing itself, and not on the joy of writing that God has given me. Sometimes when I do step away for a while, I have a revived creativity when I come back to it...or an aha moment, and then I know it was a good thing that I took a break. :)

Beth K. Vogt said...

Sherrinda:
Do you think you hit a nerve--in a positive way--with this post?
Sometimes real life trumps writing life.
Yes, sometimes we have to be professional and do "the job" and write when we don't feel like it. Show up, sit down, and write.
But when life overwhelms us with illness or even joy--graduation, birth, marriage--then it's time to balance things out and take a break.
Thanks for speaking up and saying what needs to be said.

Sherrinda said...

Oh, goodness. I'm on my lunch break and had a moment to breathe and check in.

Alison, you poor thing! It's one thing to move across town or state, but quite another to move across the ocean! Get moved, get settled, breathe in, and let your pen fly! I'll be praying for you.

Lynda, I am soooo sorry about your finger! I cannot imagine that happening to me. My day job is alllll typing and I'd be sunk, for sure! Use your time to dream up your stories. Build a series in your head. Let your imagination go wild...er, not too wild. ;)

Sarah, going through an emotional roller coaster like you have had is extremely taxing on your energy and creative thought. And you bring up something that I didn't mention. Sometimes you have to pump that well of creativity to get into your groove of writing. Time is a great tool, isn't it?

Sherrinda said...

Joanne, you have had a desert to live through, haven't you? I'm so impressed by those who deal with such struggles and yet persevere in their dreams...even if they take a break from it.

Casey, you can have an excuse. Just make one up, girl! I'll share. ;)

Mary, that is a perfect analogy!!!! Yes, we can use these time to think on our writing (if we aren't too drained). I will be praying for your weekend. I, too, am having a big party Sunday evening. So much to do and clean! Wish I was there to help you!

Sherrinda said...

Tomakechristknown, sometimes we need to be reminded of these things. We put so much pressure on ourselves to do it all and really, we just don't have to. It isn't necessary. :)

Jan, yes! Our gifts won't disappear. Sometimes I get it in my head that if I don't keep going, I will lose all I've learned. Well, I may have to refresh the learning a bit, but it will all come back in time.

Angie, I get really grumpy too! I'm no good for my family and they really should be my top priority. (beside loving God)It all works best when there is balance.

Beth, yes. I was amazed at the comments so far. When I wrote this post, I was feeling guilty about feeling the need to explain why I take breaks, but God has been whispering to me that it is okay. There is a time and a season for everything. Thanks for the encouragement.

Pepper said...

Oh Sherrinda!
You know I've been there...and the 'seasons' in which it happens can happen routinely. For example, from the end of August to the first of September I usually am forced to take a break. At the beginning of the semester (and when my kids are starting school), there are too many extraneous things going on to write productively.
The last two weeks of April through the first week of May? Not a lot of writing going on - final grades are due for the semester.
This past spring semester, I basically took a writing break from the end of February to the beginning of May. I was overloaded.
I've really had to start giving myself a realistic talk.
God knows.
Those He calls, he also equips - that means with time too. The right time to write. So when life 'invades', then I have to wait.
Not easy, but sometimes I realize how necessary it is when I look back on it - ya know?
Thanks so much for the reminder, sister-friend ;-)

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

I've tried to take a rest from writing, but by the second day I'm bored and start cleaning the house. That's desperate. :)

Jennifer Shirk said...

Good grief--no, I don't write 1000 words a day or every day. Some writers can do that and that's great, but I can't. :)

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Through the years I've taken many a break. God guides and I follow. Love it when He calls me back to it, though!