Take a Break; It’s Okay
It’s okay to take a break, to quit, for a moment. Quit for a day, a week, a month, two years. It’s okay. Think of it as a break, a hiatus, or a vacation, but don’t feel guilty about taking the time. And do NOT let anyone make you feel guilty–that includes yourself–about needing to take that time to step away from your creative work for a little while.
Life gets in the way. Even if you’re able to create all day, every day. Life gets in the way. Someone gets sick or the car breaks down or there’s traffic on your way home from the grocery store or a friend you haven’t seen in years surprises you for lunch. Life gets in the way sometimes.
I’m listening back through early episodes of several podcasts (almost caught up on a few) one of which is Ditch Diggers hosted by Mur Lafferty and Matt Wallace. Way back in episode 5 (they’re on #51 at the time I’m writing this and I’m up to episode 15 I think) Mur and Matt had an interview with Elizabeth Bear. It’s a candid interview where Mur and Elizabeth discuss quitting creative pursuits and how it’s OK to do so.
I listened to this episode a little while ago and it was very helpful. I had been feeling guilty about not writing while my world was already far to busy–work all day (including rehearsals for about 3 shows) and rehearsals in the evening for another show, plus even later work at my second job to load out shows. On top of all that I felt I still needed to be writing. I had to remind myself to go to the restroom, not to mention eat and sleep. I don’t know how in hell I thought I would be able to write also.
But I felt guilty for not being able to find the time to do so.
Once things had calmed down and we opened our show I listened to this Ditch Diggers episode. Man, did I need to hear what they had to say: It’s okay to quit.
In October last fall I had attempted the 10,000 Word Writing Challenge, I don’t think I even hit 1,000 words during October. I felt guilty about not being able to write during this time because I had almost won the last challenge in March (when I had only slightly more time on my hands). During this time I had already not been blogging for 2 months, hadn’t really made much progress on anything since September, and I was berating myself for not creating more.
Once I heard the Ditch Diggers interview I realized I had, wheather intentionally or not, quit with writing for those few months. The interview made me realize life had gotten in the way, but that wasn’t something I should feel bad about. And it didn’t mean I couldn’t start again.
Quitting doesn’t mean forever. It just means in that moment things have become overwhelming and stress levels are too high. Take a deep breath and take a step back. It’s okay. Personal health (physical and mental health) is more important than trying to create when life gets in the way.
Yes, I know there is a thing called deadlines and when someone’s paying we need to reach those. But that doesn’t mean in that moment you can’t step away for an hour or two. You can quit for those two hours. Go play with the dog or cat, spend some time with a friend, go grab a drink. Then come back once you’ve destressed. You’ll be better for the break and stepping away may provide you with the needed distance to solve whatever issue you had been running into.
Nothing says once you quit you can’t pick things up again later. Mur, the host of I Should Be Writing and co-host of Ditch Diggers podcasts, stopped writing for 10 years! She quit for 10 years. She now has several published books (self published and traditional published) as well as is the host of two very successful writing podcasts. (If you haven’t listened to her podcasts I do recommened listening, I always find them to be a good source of motivation and inspiration to write–I’m not being asked to say that, it’s my own opinion because I’ve found her work to be so helpful).
So take a break if you need it. Curl up in your favorite armchair with some coffee or tea and ignore the world for a little while. It’ll be here when you’re ready to come back. You’re health may need just that and you’ll thank yourself later for it.
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