Should You Take a Break From Writing? 5 Red Flags

Writers are supposed to write. That’s just how it works. But should you ever take a break from writing? Is that just code for quitting? Is it a sign you’re copping to your own laziness or fear? Or that you’re really not a disciplined, “serious” writer?

The short answer: Who knows? Only you know.

The more general answer is that, at some point for almost all writers, taking a break from your writing becomes valuable and perhaps even necessary. At the date of my writing this post, I daresay more writers than usual have been asking this question. When the pandemic hit in 2020, I heard from many writers who just couldn’t quite find it in themselves to write. And in the months that followed, all the way through 2021, I started seeing more and more writers publicly talking about how taking a break from writing was something they were focusing on—perhaps even for the first time in their careers.

I was among those writers. As I’ve discussed elsewhere, for me the challenges of 2020 came on the heels of what was already a difficult writing period in my life. By the time 2021 rolled around, I made the decision to give myself a year-long “conscious sabbatical” from writing my fiction. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. But I believe it was also one of the best decisions.

Toward the end of last year, I received an email from Labrava Altonia, which echoed the difficulties and concerns that I feel are quite prevalent write now. Labrava wrote eloquently of struggling with narrative fiction, including the guilt that so often (if so senselessly) dogs us when we’re experiencing writer’s block:

Recently, I’ve been taking a writing break which is ironic because when I look in my notebooks, I’ve doodled almost ten pages of words every day. It’s more so a break from writing narrative-driven fiction and writing towards dedicated WIPs because I’ve been having anxiety attacks in front of a computer. I’m returning to writing towards dedicated projects, with all the outlining and word count goals and exciting revisions, and I’m excited but I also have a sense of dread. I know it’s good to write scared but there’s SCARED and then there’s SCARED where you’re having panic attacks because you’re associating the natural difficulties of writing with your value as a person, a toxic self-doubt.

So mainly I wanted to ask how do you know when to take breaks and when to push forward? I’m trying to go slow but the line’s even fuzzier for me because my anxiety blurs the difference between a natural break vs. procrastination, and my pushing forward during a difficult passage can also lead to burnout, but if I don’t push forward it can lead to a lack of forward momentum.

As I’m writing this, I’m starting to realize a lot of my questions will be cleared as I go back to writing and naturally feel out my limits without anxiety clouding my mind. But I’m still interested in how you approach discipline vs. the spontaneity of just taking a break from writing one day because you feel like it. Basically, self-trust.

I responded with my own experience:

It’s interesting you should ask me this right now, because I am nearing the end of taking a year-long break from my fiction writing. I’ve called it a “conscious sabbatical,” but really it was a step back from writing due to writer’s block. It’s the first time I’ve ever had writer’s block, and the first time I’ve consciously taken a break from writing in almost two decades.

It’s been interesting. And scary. 😉

I am hoping/planning to stick my toe back in the water next year at some point (I know I will be having some more big life changes to deal with, so also trying to work around that). And I don’t know quite what to expect.

I don’t have any profound answers for you, other than to perhaps normalize your experience some. I’ve heard from many writers in the past two years who are struggling with their writing in relationship to the more stressful world we’re all living in post-COVID.

For me, finally letting myself take a conscious break was something I did as an act of compassion and kindness for myself. It was a recognition that I am not what I do, even writing, and my worth is not defined by how many words I write every day. It was a recognition that my body and my nervous system are trying to talk to me, trying to tell me there are reasons writing has become so difficult, and that if I want to return to writing, I first need to acknowledge and address those reasons.

Humans—perhaps especially writers—are so hard on themselves. We expect ourselves to perform like machines. But I have come to believe, in the past year, that sometimes taking a break from the creating is one of the most creative things we can do.

So I would say this: Go with the flow. Look into your own fears. Hold yourself with compassion as your explore them. And trust life. Don’t resist what is here for you in this moment even if it is adamantly not writing. If you are meant to write again, you will. If not, you will find what you are meant to do next.

That is what I keep telling myself. 🙂

Because this is a topic that has been on my mind for so long and because it is one I feel so many other writers are working through in one way or another, today I’d like to take a specific look at this question. When should you take a break from writing? And once you’ve taken that step, what in heaven’s name are you going to do with yourself? Here are my thoughts.

5 Signs You Should Take a Break From Writing

1. You (Really) Don’t Want to Write

I’m not talking about that feeling you get every day when you sit down at the keyboard and suddenly experience the desperate urge to go fold laundry or something. I’m not talking about the resistance we all feel to the undeniably hard work of writing. I’m not even talking about those periods where you hate your story, hate your words, hate your characters—and just want to flush the whole thing down the toilet.

What I’m talking about here is a deep true knowing within you that writing is not what you want to be doing with your time right now. It could be that this feeling does indeed grow out of the those daily-grind type of resistances mentioned above. If you keep hammering away at a story you don’t like or that isn’t working long enough, you will need a break sooner or later if only to regroup. There is certainly a fine line sometimes between the kind of resistance you need to work through and the kind of resistance you need to listen to.

But deep down, you know. For me, there finally came a point when I knew that to keep trying would only be self-defeating. Instead of writing my way back into writing, I was more likely to force myself to a point from which I would never be able to return to writing with the same joy and passion I once had. So I listened to that, and I took a (long) break.

2. You Feel Exhausted, Drained, or Burned Out

The really-don’t-want-to-write feeling can come on for many reasons. Perhaps one of the most prevalent is simply that you’re tired. This exhaustion might be induced partly or wholly by life factors unrelated to writing (like, um, a pandemic). But it might also simply emerge because you’ve been writing for a really long time—years and years, decades even. Or maybe it’s more to do with a concerted amount of effort over a comparatively shorter amount of time, as when you’re pushing for a deadline. Just finishing a big project is usually reason enough to give yourself at least a short break.

Burnout is not something to be taken lightly. It’s not just a word for “really-tired-but-if-I-just-take-a-nap-I’ll-get-over-it.” Burnout is a physiological fact that, when serious, creates depletion on any number of levels including the physical (which needless to say affects everything else). You can think of serious burnout for a writer as if it were a major injury for a pro athlete. You might be able to come back from it, but it takes a lot of rehab. Even if you do come back, you may not be able to function at the same (probably impossibly high) level you used to demand from yourself.

The best solution is to catch burnout before it starts or its very early stages, which are usually precipitated not just by physical exhaustion but that very real inner resistance telling you, “I don’t want to do this; please stop.” If you can heed that early enough, take a break, and regroup, you can stave off the worst of the damage before it happens. And let me tell you: it is worth it.

3. You’re Experiencing Fear or Other “Life-Based” Blocks

I believe there are two different types of writer’s block: “plot blocks,” which have to do with story-specific issues in which something just isn’t working or making sense, and “life blocks.” Plot blocks are relatively easy to work through with time, patience, discipline, and continuing education. Life blocks, on the other hand, are often largely unrelated to the writing itself and require deeper work while they follow a timeline all their own.

If you find yourself resisting your writing out of a deep sense of fear, dread, anger, or another similar emotion, what you’re experiencing may well have less to do with the story and more to do with a larger issue in your life. This might be anything from trauma, grief, illness, stress, or even that burnout mentioned above. In some cases like this, continuing with the writing might be the single best thing you can do for yourself in helping you work through your issues and find catharsis. But in other cases, the added pressure of forcing yourself to meet a certain word-count goal every day only adds to the problem.

Only you can determine which is true for you, and just because staying with the writing may feel like the scarier or harder choice does not mean it’s not the right one. But it’s important not to beat yourself up for being a “bad writer” if what you’re dealing with is really something much bigger and perhaps even something entirely out of your control.

4. You Don’t Know What to Write

I used to think I’d never run out of stories to tell. And I haven’t. I have several ideas I love stored away in my files right now. And yet, for the past few years, none of them have seemed the right ones to tell. They seem out of sync with my current self, my evolving perspectives, and even my interests. In short, they’re just not the stories I want to tell right now.

And sometimes it be like that.

Sometimes we can sit down at the page, freewrite, and end up with something that at least makes us curious enough to keep pulling the thread. Other times, we absolutely know what we want to write. We have an idea in our heads that is bursting with our own passion to tell it. And sometimes the reason we don’t feel like writing is because we don’t currently have something to write.

If you’re dealing with any level of burnout or stress, this could simply be because your creative well is empty. If so, taking a break from the actual writing in order to refill the well is the single most responsible thing you can do as a writer. More than that, sometimes we do just have to wait for the inspiration to find us. In this era of “fast fiction,” when writers are expected to always be churning out a new story, it can be easy to forget that the inspiration doesn’t always follow the writing—but the writing does always follows the inspiration.

5. You Need to Prioritize Other Commitments Right Now

Put simply, sometimes writing is the most important thing we can possibly be doing. And sometimes it’s not. For people who claim an identity as writers or who have a great dream of making writing their life, it can be difficult to realize that sometimes other parts of life are just as important—if not more so.

This realization may be as simple as accepting that you’re pushing yourself too hard and you need to take a break for your own health. But it could also be thrust upon you through no choice of your own. It might be something big, like the illness or death of a loved one. It might be a global situation, like the pandemic. It might be a positive but still energy-consumptive life transition like graduating, moving, getting married, having a baby. It might be that writing isn’t your money-making job, and you need to concentrate more time on whatever does keep the lights on and the cupboards filled.

Or it could just be that you want to focus on another passion for a while—travelling, painting, going back to school, farming, whatever it may be. Writing is so important. I believe this with all my heart. But it is not the only important thing in life, even for writers. Not even close. Without doubt, there will be times when it is the least important thing in your life.

4 Beneficial Things to Do During a Writing Break

So you’ve decided to take a break from writing. Maybe it’s a month-long break. Maybe it’s a year-long break, like mine. Maybe it’s indeterminate. Now what? What do you do with yourself during that time, and how can you take full advantage of your break to come back to the writing even stronger?

1. Write… Other Stuff

Just because you feel the need to take the break from one kind of writing doesn’t mean you have to ditch the words altogether. For me, my “conscious sabbatical” was specifically from writing fiction. But in that same year, I wrote the rough draft for a book about archetypal character arcs, over forty blog posts, and hundreds of journal entries. Although you may decide that a cold-turkey break from your writing is best, you may also find that nurturing your word-brain in other ways is most restorative while you rest the burned-out part.

2. Take Care of Yourself

Regardless the reason behind taking a writing break, the whole point is that you’re doing this for yourself. You’re doing this because you realize that being “on push” with your writing right now is not helping. So take that even further. Ditch any guilt and decide to offer yourself all the support, compassion, and healthy decisions you can during this time. This is even more crucial if your reason for taking a break from writing has to do with other stresses or pressures in your life.

3. Fill Your Well

To the best of your ability, try to consciously use your break to refill your creative and energetic well in whatever way you most need.

Maybe you just need some chill time in front of a cozy fire.

Or maybe you need to focus on your physical well-being.

Or maybe you need to read and watch whatever most inspires you.

Or maybe you need to branch out and explore new subjects or mediums of art.

This isn’t about self-indulgence (per se); rather, it’s about finding your sweet spot and absolutely bathing in it for at least a short period of every day.

4. Examine Your Resistance to Writing

You may know exactly why you’re taking a break (e.g., you’re in between projects and want some proactive me time). But if you’re facing serious resistance, burnout, or life blocks, you may be uncertain exactly what’s going on. Don’t ignore that. Take it as slow as you need, but discipline yourself to consistently examine why you’re feeling this overwhelming resistance to your writing. Why is something you presumably love so much filling you with so many difficult feelings? What you find may be easy enough to recognize and correct. But it may also turn into a long and twisting quest into the underground of your own soul. Stay with it. At the very least, you’ll come back out with some great fodder for your writing when you decide to return to it.


The kind of writing break I’m discussing in this post is the kind you don’t take lightly. It’s the kind you resist, probably for a long while, for many deeper reasons. If making the decision to take a serious break from your writing were easy, there would be no need for this discussion. I can attest, from my own lived experience and from the many conversations I’ve had with other writers, that confronting this aspect of the writing life is often filled with deep angst.

And so I would close simply with the reminder that if you’re facing this angst, it is almost certainly pointing to something deep and ultimately valuable within your life. You’re being challenged to try different tactics, to take care of yourself, and perhaps to take a deep look at yourself, your motivations, your habits, and your priorities. This is a good thing. If you can do all that as faithfully as you’ve pursued your writing, you will emerge from your “conscious sabbatical” with some amazing treasures.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! Have you ever felt the need to take a break from writing? Tell me in the comments!

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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. Lynda Courtright says

    Interesting contemplation for those of us who are older—we add the ever present awareness that there is an approaching end to our time for getting those burning thoughts “out there.” One day (how long from now? soon?) we will not be able to complete that novel. We’ll take a break that we don’t come back from. So it is extra hard to be at peace with the idea of voluntarily taking a break now!

    But nonetheless, the points you bring up apply to us too. Burnout is a humbling reminder that we aren’t infinite. Acknowledging that brings a profound depth to all we do, our writing, our living. Urgency too, yes, but also the understanding that we must lay down our constant doing and rest.

    Treasure this day, make it a good one, whether you use it to sit at your keyboard or to hug your loved ones or simply be still and appreciate the gift of life and the good things you have.

    • Well said. The ticking clock definitely pushes me as well.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Thank you for sharing this perspective. I feel the ticking clock like crazy, even now. I have to remind myself that the clock is ticking on more things than just work and writing.

      • Alex Wilson says

        I’m only 30 but I find I can hear the dreaded ticking of the clock late at night, simply because I have so many ideas I want to get out.

        The ticking of my clock is also impacted in the amount of effort I can put in, which ties into this podcast’s subject. Whether to work on my book or take a long break is a daily question for me, because of my physical disability. There are times where I simply cannot physically work, and even when I can, it may be so long since I last wrote, or while I’m physically able to write, I’m mentally exhausted. It’s a constant balancing act, and so I always need to be asking myself ‘is this the day I work anyway, as it’s just been so long?’

    • “The ticking clock.” Very apt. I’m on the high side of seventy and lots of things seem not to be working anymore. I have wanted to be a writer since I was a kid and did quite a bit of it while I was in school. That was part of my learning experience. I read a book when I was 18 that I thought was wonderful and cemented my desire to become a writer. When I went into the military when I was 19, I was working in the finance office as an accountant. It was almost like having a normal job, except for the pay, of course. So, I bought a typewriter and found some time to write. Then I got married. I dabbled at writing. Two children came along. Then, one day I was a single parent. I see that it’s more common now, but it wasn’t then, but it’s always difficult. After almost six years I remarried… to a woman who also had two children. It has been one of the greatest experiences of my life and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Not to mention that we ended up having two more. Not much writing got done. When I retired, I thought I was finally going to write. And I have been. I was doing great. Now I’m dabbling again. I sit down to write, and I end up doing research. Taking time off sounds tempting but I keep thinking of that long ago goal of having a book published and I try to keep at it. I think I’d rather play with the grandkids or the great grandkids. Then I think about the fact that my novel, at least the first draft, isn’t that far from being done. One day a week, maybe that will work.

      • Lesley Goodall says

        I like that idea, write one full day per week. I came up with a schedule, every Tuesday, but can’t manage this week, or next week. Oh dear! finding the time between nanny-minding, dog grooming, walking the dogs, cooking, cleaning, shopping ironing .. …. ….. hahaha, but I’ve got the draft down for book 1 and book 2, plot for book 3, idea for book 4. Perhaps one day I’ll get it all done.

  2. Maureen Ross says

    What Lynda said!

  3. Eric Troyer says

    I have had a bit of a different problem. I have many volunteer projects that I want to work on (several involving writing skills). I tried to make fiction writing primary, but I couldn’t quiet the need to attend to the volunteer projects. Finally, I gave in and did no fiction writing for several months. But I missed it. So now I try to carve out a bit of time for my fiction work when I can. That experience has been illuminating. I am now eager to write fiction when I get the chance. It’s like a treat to myself. I still struggle with my fiction writing at times, but it’s a struggle I enjoy.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I appreciated snowboarder Chloe Kim’s perspective on her own break from snowboarding after winning her first gold medal. She decided to quit and focus on school and other things until she missed snowboarding. Eventually, she did and returned to it.

  4. Thank you again for sharing your own writing journey (speedbumps and potholes included!) with your fans.

    I’m glad I’m not the only one having this particular struggle at this particular moment.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      From what I’m hearing and seeing all over the place, I think *many* writers are going through this, for many different reasons, at this point in time.

  5. I just wanted to say, this one has definitely applied to me (all of 2020 and mid- 2021 was pretty bad) and I appreciate this piece. But also, I really get a lot of value from your newletters. And I just wanted you to know that.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Thanks, Rach. Very glad you’re enjoying them. Sorry to hear about your own struggles. But it’s nice to know we’re all not alone. 🙂

  6. Now, I haven’t really written (well, published) anything yet, although I have several good-sounding things brewing (only according to me, not even my mum has been told, or asked to comment… ;P). Just to make that clear at the beginning.

    I have been working for most of the time since I became an adult 35+ years ago, but health issues have now forced me to stay at home for a year and a half. At first, it was a somewhat lovely thing, but then after a few months off work, I almost literally started gnawing at the curtains when forced to stay inactive.

    So about a year ago, I decided to force myself back into being a working man again, even if only within my own home… World-building was always a hobby of mine, so I decided to see what I could develop that into.

    What I found is that I really loved it! Working on focused world-building, thinking of plot points big and small, especially in the morning when my mind was most free-flowing! It was a real high, but then it slowly bogged down…

    It’s still work, in the end, no matter how much you enjoy it! So I decided to make weekends optional. I still automatically open my files in the morning, but I’m allowed to not touch them, or think of them, during the weekend. But they are always just an alt-tab away if I come up with something while doing the dishes, or gaming, or doing cooking.

    And that helped a lot! The lost weeks when I just shied away from it all are gone now. Monday to Friday I still get inn 5-6 hours every day, and it always seems a lot less by the time my stomach insists on lunch, or breakfast, or dinner, or whatever that silly break from thinking is called… 🙂

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Smart! Scheduled breaks are, I think, super important no matter what we’re doing. Quarantine may have taught some of us the benefits and downfalls of enforced time off, but I think the pandemic in general has also taught us that it’s important we *are* consistently working at something meaningful. Very sorry to hear about your health issues!

  7. Cathy Robinson says

    Splendid thoughts, thank you! Traditionally I have been a “burst” worker (in writing and life), so taking breaks was a part of my rhythm. And those breaks would bring treasures and fresh energy for whatever was next. Now (for better or worse), I am trying to buck my natural tendency and discover a sustainable pace for my writing. It is my own experiment… 🙂

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “Bursting” is a skill I have never had, but I’d like to develop it. Maybe we’ll meet in the middle. 🙂

  8. Last month (January) I set an ambitious (for me) goal for word count and got 95% of the way there (which is still the most fiction-writing I’ve done in a single calendar month). But I was also sleep deprived. This month (February) I’ve written less than 50% as much on a daily basis, but I’m also getting more sleep. While it would be ‘nice’ if I could keep up the ‘productivity’ I had in January, sleep is also important for my well-being. If I have to lower my daily word-count goals to get enough sleep, then I have to accept that. I still have forward momentum for this project, it’s not a ‘writing break’, it’s just slower.

    Thank you for writing this post. I can feel how deep you dug and how much vulnerability you exposed. I haven’t had to go to that kind of psychological place myself as a writer–so far–but if I ever do, I will be grateful that you shared this.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I hear you. Once upon a time, I decided that I would do my best writing if I woke up early and did it first thing. I don’t *why* I thought this, since I am not a morning person. But I quickly learned that I did even less writing than before when I kept hitting the snooze button. :p

      Glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for reading!

  9. Grace Dvorachek says

    Yet another post that seems too much of a coincidence… I have been struggling with this for the past month or two, and I wasn’t really sure what to do. Recently, I finished the largest novel I’ve ever written, and I was at a loss for what project to start next. I had plenty of ideas written down (almost 100), but none of them seemed just right. I started several projects, but quickly realized that they weren’t working out.

    I felt that should take a break, though maybe not from writing, or even fiction writing. I think I was becoming ensnared by too much structure (if there is such a thing). The big projects and huge novels were just a lot to handle, and, at one point, I even became irritated with the outlining process (which is normally one of my favorite parts of writing).

    Reading this post has helped my make up my mind. Until I feel ready to take on the huge task of a novel, I’m going to stick to the small things. Maybe those writings will never be seen by another human being, but that’s not why I write, anyway. I might write a poem one day, a short story the next, a nonfiction work the next… and I may even try my hand at flash fiction. Some days, I might not write anything. But in the end, I hope to have learned lessons that I never would have learned while writing a novel.

    Thank you for another well-timed post, and for helping me make a decision that will put me on the path to becoming a better writer.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “I felt that should take a break, though maybe not from writing, or even fiction writing. I think I was becoming ensnared by too much structure (if there is such a thing). The big projects and huge novels were just a lot to handle, and, at one point, I even became irritated with the outlining process (which is normally one of my favorite parts of writing).”

      I relate to this so much. This is where I got snarled up on my fantasy sequels to the point where I couldn’t see straight anymore and definitely wasn’t having fun.

  10. I have a novel in redraft limbo that I was going to get back to in the spring of 2020. And then a pandemic hit, and I found I didn’t want to write anything. At all. I had some frivolous side projects that I was working on, and even those dried up. It wasn’t for lack of trying. I’d sit at the computer, open up the novel project and then close it again a minute later.

    I wasn’t just tired. Something was refusing to engage at all.

    When November 2020 came around, I considered NaNoWriMo as a way to restart my efforts, and something inside me just… recoiled. I let it go. I focused on getting through one day at a time, and left the writing alone.

    2021 was better. Still no novel rewrites, but my side projects picked back up again. When NaNoWriMo 2021 loomed, I committed myself to do it – and I came up with a project that was easier to write, flexible in terms of length or style and didn’t have to ever be published.

    I’ve now written on it every day since November 1st, albeit not quite as intensely – I even wrote a few paragraphs on Christmas Day before travelling down to see the family. It’s not quite done yet but it’s been fun, and engaging, and turned out surprisingly good. It will need some tidying up but it isn’t far off being publication ready even now.

    Eventually you do need to start writing again.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “I have a novel in redraft limbo that I was going to get back to in the spring of 2020. And then a pandemic hit, and I found I didn’t want to write anything. At all. I had some frivolous side projects that I was working on, and even those dried up. It wasn’t for lack of trying. I’d sit at the computer, open up the novel project and then close it again a minute later. I wasn’t just tired. Something was refusing to engage at all.”

      Yup. I relate. And I’ve actually considered doing NaNo for the first time. Who knows? 🙂

    • Hi, I can so identify with redraft limbo. I have an eighty thousand word novel at this stage, well at the tenth redraft. I have other pieces which I have written over the years non of which have got to the publishing stage. This one is different and I feel more confident, having said that when is enough enough?
      If I feel like a break I take one, my main problem is the constant doubt – is it good enough. Part of me thinks it is and the other part thinks it is a load of rubbish.

  11. I took a three year break because I had other priorities in my life in the form of volunteer work. It dropped too far down my priority list and I decided it would become a pain rather than a pleasure. I’ll add that this isn’t the same thing, but for the past few years I’ve written seven days a week, largely because I have a full time job and this is my way of digging up ten hours or so a week so I could make progress. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve tried taking Sundays off while really stepping up my game on Saturday. So far, I’ve really liked doing this.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Probably no surprise that I like consistency and reliable schedules. But even I find that mixing things up from time to time can really change perspective and flow.

  12. What a wonderful post, K.M!

    I too, was a productivity-focused writer until I contracted COVID and developed brain fog and cognitive impairment, which literally took away my ability to write.

    I realized I would have to completely stop writing in order to be able to continue at all.

    I struggled with long COVID for nearly a year but was able to make it through and rebuild by practicing good, compassionate self-care ( which also made me into a much more empathic person, generally). I was one of the lucky ones.

    Although I wasn’t thinking about writing anything beyond journal reflections at the time, as I started to heal, I reorganized this material into a personal essay at the urging of a friend. To my surprise, it sold!

    I have not been the slightest bit tempted to return to my former ways, even if old habits sometimes rear their heads. Today, I am going out to enjoy a skate IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY, unthinkable to my old self.

    I’m cultivating an attitude of self-trust. I need a break today. I know I’ll get back to writing tomorrow.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      So sorry to hear about your experience with Covid. That’s super-rough. Congrats on your essay though! I hope you enjoyed your skate. 🙂

  13. This is really helpful in ways you probably didn’t intend. I know I reached out to you after a couple of bad reviews shook my confidence and couldn’t write, so you basically gave me permission to regroup and “fill my well.” I didn’t take a long break, but I really needed it.

    Having the list of reasons really helps. Although I also struggle with anxiety, depression is the thing I fear most. I’ve had yearlong depressive episodes where I didn’t write—not by choice—but because I could barely take a shower, let alone create something. When I seem to be spiraling down, I’ve noticed my therapist always asks if I’m writing. Not writing every day is one of my red flags.

    Your reasons can help me suss out whether I actually need a break, need to write scared, or need a med change. Thank you so much for this!!!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Sorry to hear about your struggles with anxiety and depression. That’s no fun. At the end of the day, I think this discussion is always ultimately about us listening to our own needs and knowing when *not* to force ourselves to push past our own red zones. There’s a time and a place to be realistic and make sure we’re not making excuses for ourselves–but honestly when that’s happening, it’s usually a sign that there’s *something* going on that we need to pay attention to and identify.

  14. Colleen F. Janik says

    Although the pandemic hasn’t affected my desire to write, there was a time years ago when I was completely unable to piece two creative words together as hard as I tried. It was a strange feeling, and something I felt I had no choice in.
    Now I have three novels I’m struggling to finish, anticipating the sense of satisfaction I will experience when I get the first of them published.
    Yet all my life when I wrote little notes in cards, I could see how my words could touch someone’s heart in a very meaningful way. Yesterday I wrote a letter to a friend regarding a critical matter and was so rewarded when I got a very positive response.
    Our words are touching lives every day, and that is what counts. In the end, that is what will matter.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “Our words are touching lives every day, and that is what counts. In the end, that is what will matter.”

      That’s beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

  15. This post couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I have been struggling a great deal with my writing, only writing drips and drabs and using the ‘real life’ excuse and I realize that none of those red flags you mention actually fit me at the moment. It’s simply a case of I can’t be bothered at the moment. Since I like where my story is going at the moment, I just need to motivate myself. Thank you.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “It’s simply a case of I can’t be bothered at the moment.”

      For what it’s worth, that’s totally a legit reason, as long as you’re in alignment with it. I think that’s the litmus test right there: are we really doing what we want to be doing? or are we just making excuses because we’d rather take an easier path?

      That said, however, something I realized just this morning in contemplating a difficult life choice that’s coming up for me is that sometimes it takes more courage *not* to do something than it does to do it. It’s all a matter of getting clear on what’s really going on and what is really motivating us.

  16. Never have “felt a need” but a break from writing has been happening to me for a long while. It began with life blocks—several teen offspring graduating from high school, college, and singleness, followed by a multitude of grands. Couple that with dabbling in what I can only blush and call “other writing”, such as helping a friend with her newspaper, writing and presenting many workshops for home educators, helping our church make a newsletter happen and doing the VA work for them, . All of it this pleasant piddling wore out my writer genes.
    All of my magazine writing came to a grinding stop as most print magazines folded. We moved house three times, related to spouse’s career.
    One of my workshops, by the way, was about burnout. Homeschool moms can go there, too. (She winks) It was as I was preparing that workshop that I realized why I was preparing it instead of writing a book about anything: I was burned out.
    An enourmouse and extended life burnout.

    I used to push an absurd, heavy, noisy mower around our house every week during the six-to-nine-month summer we endure, using that time for mental flight, taking inward vacations as I enjoyed my weekly strength/aerobics/tanning/sauna workouts.

    I do the “one word” thing and this year my word is “write”. I’m shocked—shocked that I’m writing and shocked that I dared to let that word into my brain and allowed it to stay.
    After an excruciatingly long time, I’m writing.

    And I’m SO glad you posted this. It’s killing my self doubt! Thanks so much.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      And I’m so glad you commented and shared your experience. “Life burnout” is such a bewildering and frightening experience–and I think more and more of us are encountering it these days. To me, it is magical that the word “write” returned to you–and that you listened to it. I wish you courage and blessing as you re-embark upon the writing adventure!

      (And, I should add, that we often forget that the true definition of “adventure” is not “fun vacation in Hawaii,” but rather “an undertaking involving uncertainty and risk.”)

      • Undertaking involving uncertainty and risk—like husband submitting, finally, to cataract surgery. That’s been the latest. I cannot believe what all has been going on.

  17. I’ve been ironing out plot problems in my head for my WIP but my hands have been turning to tie dye instead. Trying to invent understated looking patterns that don’t scream psychedelia/Summer camp with the Girl Scouts.

    I’m very much failing so far but learning and having fun doing it.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      That does sound fun. A few years ago, someone gave me an adult coloring book and markers as a thank-you gift. I accepted it politely, but thought, “Yeah, right!” That year, I found I couldn’t even concentrate enough to read, so I turned to audio books for a while. To keep my hands busy, I picked up the coloring book and started doodling. I loved it. Couldn’t believe how relaxing it was.

  18. I’ve come to realize that I’ve been dealing with some burnout when it comes to my writing. I spent a lot of time trying to force myself to be a novel writer (my work has always been on the short side), attempting different story ideas that I wasn’t truly interested in, and thinking too much about publishing and everything that comes with that. Ultimately I ended up with what you described, that deep down feeling of *knowing* I didn’t want to write. I wasn’t even daydreaming about my characters anymore! I think I ended up not writing for a year, maybe even two. It’s slowly coming back to me now, and I’m learning to do this for my own enjoyment again.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I’m finding that “slowly” is indeed the word. I can feel a slow stirring of interest in at least returning to my abandoned WIP and editing it. But the returning desire is a mysterious and ephemeral thing that definitely seems intent on following its own timeline. My challenge is to let it. I don’t say that lightly. :p

  19. I achieved my dream… not one but 2 book contracts with big traditional publishers but be careful what you wish for. I have just handed in my 6th book in 4 years and ticked all your red flags. I am exhausted and decided I am taking at least a 6 month break- I need to spend more time with my grandchildren and 91 yo mother , concentrate on my health and do some sewing. I have no shortage of stories but the lifestyle was unsustainable and, frankly, what more do I want to achieve?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      That’s a question I eventually came to as well. We do things for all sorts of reasons–most of which are valid in their own right–like wanting to prove we *can* be successful writers, etc. But when some of those goals reach completion, we may find ourselves looking around and wondering where the joy went. I used to say I wrote for myself rather than other people; I think that’s something I’m trying to rediscover in my fiction.

  20. I am at a place where I WANT to write, but other life priorities are getting in the way. This post brought tears to my eyes as I realize my writing needs to take a back seat to caregiving for two people in my life. I am chafing at this, but I know it’s true.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      That’s such a tough situation to be in. I have seen how exhausting caretaking can be. I hope you are able to find a way to nurture yourself as well in this chapter of your life. You *will* write again. Sending love!

  21. Jerry Jarvis says

    What a helpful article – I’ve found more than a few writing friends (including myself) struggling to move forward with projects lately. I’m currently working my way out of a ear-long funk and moving forward tentatively with my two favorite writing projects, but it’s still hard, Thanks for sharing your experience and giving us your support – we return the favor over and over.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Although I think the challenges of the last few years have brought many people to writing for the first time, I think that many of us who have been writing for a while got jarred *out* of our writing by the stressful events. It’s a bit of a phenomenon really. :p

  22. In 2012 I retired, moved to Bali, Indonesia, and began my writing life. I threw myself into it and completed two fiction novels, my memoir, a self-help book and posted regularly to my blog while attending two writers’ groups a week. Then came Covid and everything stopped. In light of the immensity of a worldwide pandemic I found I had nothing to say. Eventually, I could write blogposts again, but that was the extent of my interest in the craft I had loved.

    I don’t know what happened, Kim. All I can say is there’s nothing there, no creative spark, no desire. It’s surreal. I’m baffled and curious but have come to terms with the fact that I may never recover the ‘juice’ that flowed through me so effortlessly before. I’ve moved to Mexico. I’m studying Spanish. I’m meeting interesting people. Life is full and good. But there’s a corner of my heart where a draft blows through the emptiness and I wonder, will I ever write again?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I’m so sorry to hear that. I can relate to some extent, and I know how painful and bewildering it is. I do think that the dramatic changes the world has undergone in these past few years have thrust many of us (all of us?) into a wider perspective of the world and our lives in it. And it’s daunting. Stories we wanted to write that seemed to offer us answers and meaning only a few short years ago now feel… insufficient. I believe, however, that as we walk bravely into this future that we will eventually find our story legs again and the words will pour forth in even better and more impactful stories.

  23. I’m at the stage of the tenth rewrite after over a year of 8 hours daily slog. At the moment I tend to take it day by day. Some days I write nothing at all others I will tidy up a short story or two. The thing I am having problems with is to know when the damn novel rejig will be over.
    I actually feel unable to start anything else until the novel is put to bed so-to-speak and though I have the desire to start something else I’m unable to move on. When I feel like this the doubts of whether or not I am any good or if I just produce rubbish, cloud my mind and judgement.

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