5 Reasons You Should Stop Writing

Sometimes the best thing a writer can do is not write. There are going to be times when our brains are fried, our imaginations are dried up, and our lives are demanding we put non-writing priorities first.

In these situations, is it ever acceptable to just surrender and throw down the pen for a while? My answer is absolutely. In fact, sometimes it’s wise to deliberately plan to stop writing. Let’s consider a few instances in which not writing is not only acceptable but important.

1. To let a story breathe

By the time we finish writing a novel, our objectivity will have packed its bags and headed to Rio. We can edit the darn thing until we’re blue in the face, but we’re not likely to really see what’s wrong with it until we’re able to put a little distance between ourselves this story we’ve grown to love (or, perhaps, hate).Once I finish a first draft, I edit the manuscript three times to correct obvious typos and continuity errors. Then I set it aside for as much as a year. I don’t look at it; I don’t think about it. I just wait until my gut starts telling me my objectivity has boarded its return flight back from vacation.

2. To work on a different project

We may have any number of good reasons to stop writing a particular book and focus on something else. This something else might be another story, a non-fiction book, or something totally unrelated to writing: painting, crocheting, playing football, having a baby, you name it.

If you’re lucky enough to be interested and talented in other art forms, you can alternate between projects to keep yourself fresh and interested in both. In his article “The 20-story summer” in the May 2013 issue of The Writer, Eric D. Lehman calls this “feeding the brain machine so I could go back to the big project with new insights and abilities.”

3. To schedule a regular day off

You take a day off from work every week, so why not writing? I write six days out of the week, but I always schedule one day off out of every week and hold to it adamantly. When my writing isn’t going so great, this day is a reward. But even when my writing is sailing along splendidly, this regular day off allows me to recharge my batteries, stave off burnout, and apply time to non-writing activities and chores.

4. To take an enforced vacation

Your brain is like a rubber band. Stretch it too hard for too long, and it’ll either snap or end up so limp it won’t hold anything together. When you feel burnout approaching, do yourself and your writing a favor and take a break.

After finishing a manuscript, I always have to give myself at least a few months to recuperate before diving into the next project. This period isn’t a vacation in the strictest sense, since I’m still showing up at my desk to work on marketing and perhaps the editing of other projects.

But there are other times when a total vacation is required. Unplug your Internet for a week or two, step away from the computer, and pamper yourself with ice cream, movie marathons, lots of walks, and lots of reading. You’ll return to your writing refreshed and re-energized.

5. To walk away from writing for a time

So far, the break periods we’ve discussed have been relatively brief. But what about taking a serious break from writing? What about stopping for months or even years? This, of course, is a whole ’nother ballgame. If you’re even considering this, then you are either losing interest in your writing or you’re facing major changes in your life. Both are legitimate reasons to make the decision to step away from your writing for a time.

Sometimes, for whatever reason, we just won’t be able to make our writing work at certain periods in our life. Squeezing it in even when it’s difficult is the road most of us will take—and we’ll likely be rewarded for our tenacity in doing so. But sometimes life has other plans. If writing isn’t what you want to (or can) do right now, don’t be afraid to set it aside for a while. This doesn’t mean you’re not a writer, and it doesn’t mean you’ll never come back to your writing. A decision like this should never be made lightly, but, in some situations, it may be the best thing you can do for both yourself and all the stories you will write in the future.

Writers write. But sometimes, when they have good reasons for doing so, writers don’t write. If you need to take a break—long or short—to let a story breathe or to let yourself breathe, then don’t hesitate to do so. Writing is an inherently instinctive and organic process. If your gut is telling you a break is just what the book doctor ordered, then go for it. Otherwise, get back to your desk and start hammering those keys!

Tell me your opinion: Have you ever decided to take a break from writing?

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. Your article was quoted in a Hubspot article by Neil Patel!

    Am I glad I stumbled upon your brilliance or what! WOW – thank you for giving me this much needed reminder that, sometimes, it is okay to NOT write in order to write better! #HUGSS


    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Cool beans! Thanks for letting me know.

      • Thank you so much for this post. This is totally the permission I needed to stop writing for a bit. I am working on a novel (my first) and I went strong on it for about 4 months and now I’ve had certain things come up that I’ve had to stop and deal with (health concerns and 2 deaths in my family). It seems the stress from this has submerged my creativity and the ideas just aren’t coming. I use submerge because they literally feel like they are just below my surface and I just can’t seem to access them now. Hoping this mini-sabbatical I’ve now decided to take will be just what I need.
        Thanks again!


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