The Things I Learnt When I Took A Long Break From Writing

It’s not the end of the world and there is a way back

Photo by Austin Schmid on Unsplash

When I started writing, I challenged myself to write every day for a month. Then I added another month, then another. It was amazing. I felt good about it, I felt accomplished and slowly I started to believe that I can do it. After all, when you write every day, when you have readers who are curious about what you have to say, when you achieve your goals it has to account for something.

There wasn’t a day for almost a year when I didn’t write and publish. Sometimes even more than once a day. I fit it all among my jobs and kids. And even though I went through the ups and downs of writer’s high and imposter syndrome, it was an amazing accomplishment. Even after a year, I never took more than two days off — come rain or shine, depression or a pandemic, I persisted.

I survived burnout and writer’s block, I somehow pushed through the anxiety of unnecessary comparisons and the “what’s the point” period of social isolation.

It was only after life started to get back to normal when I just had enough of it. I had enough of trying to imagine myself writing when I didn’t feel like. I chose Netflix over my thoughts and I felt sick thinking about losing or gaining momentum. But the worst of it? To my utter surprise, I stopped enjoying writing as it is. I started to write because I loved it and I was desperately looking for some scraps of that feeling. But nothing. Crickets.

It didn’t excite me. It didn’t fill me with any joy, any sense of accomplishment, any relief. It wasn’t writer’s block. Or imposter syndrome. Or burnout. I just didn’t care about it at all. And it was bad. It felt awful.

So I told myself to take a week off. Without trying. Without guilt. Without procrastination. I stopped thinking about the articles I should write, the topics I should discover, the book that I abandoned. I just put them all away…

And it was liberating! I thought I would miss it. I thought I would feel bad about it. I thought it would kill me. After all, I wanted this to be my life. But I also wanted it to be something I do because I love it, not because I should do it.

It was a great week — I have to admit. And while I had a few moments when I thought I should be writing, I was always quick to remind myself that I am on a deliberate holiday from it. It’s not laziness. It’s not procrastination. It’s not me failing.

It was eye-opening. And I should do it more often.

To be a writer you don’t need to write all the time

They say, writers write. And if you write, you are a writer. But this doesn’t mean that if you don’t write, you are not a writer. Part of the writing process happens when you don’t put words on paper. It’s called life. It’s called observing the world around you. It’s called recharging your batteries. It’s called resting.

The passive, consumption part of writing is just as important as the active, creative part. You need inputs to have better outputs. You need to feed your brain to have materials to work from later. You need to read and watch films, you need conversations, you need empty moments to process your inner world. And while sometimes this input-output works parallelly, it is nice to just stock up without depleting your reserves.

You are not lazy when you aren’t productive

We are obsessed with productivity and doing things. It’s become the measure of our worth. The more you do and the more you achieve means the better you are — according to our hustler culture. Inactive means lazy. No output means useless. Slow means bad. But we are not cut out to always perform. We need downtime. We need resting periods. We need to recharge. It’s fine not to produce and still be happy and worthy.

You can get back to your routine after being away

In the writing community, it is undisputed that a routine makes a world of a difference. Write every day. Get up 2 hours earlier. Write at the same time. Write even if you don’t want to. Write at least 500 words. Or 1000. Make it 5000. Set goals. And surpass them. Obviously.

Everyone swears on their routine and sings its praises. But just like with productivity hacks, writing routines should be personalised to your own life. If your routine is to write 10 hours one day of the week and then rest for 6 days, go for it if it works. If you write 250 words every morning and it works for you, do that. No one says that you shouldn’t plan conscious breaks into your routine. And even if you take a break, you can get back to your routine or form a new one. It might be tough to get back, but it’s not tougher than pushing through hours of writer’s block and imposter syndrome induced procrastination.

Finding a balance between a job and a hobby

When I started to write first, it was pure joy. Then I took it seriously enough and it became an item on my to-do list. Something to cross off it every day — regardless of how much I loved or hated it that day. It became a job. Something I was doing out of discipline. I was thinking that I needed another hobby because the writing wasn’t one anymore.

Just because something earns you money, you could still enjoy it. It terrified me that writing lost its appeal and I desperately wanted it back. But the more I forced it, the less it worked out.

Taking a break sent the message to my brain that it is not a job. I don’t have to do it, I can if I want, but it’s not mandatory.

You don’t have to miss writing — at all

I thought I would miss it. But I didn’t. I felt free of the burden of it. I felt I finally had time to sleep without thinking about the next thing to write about. I finally stayed up to watch a series without feeling guilty for not writing instead. I finally slept in and didn’t open my laptop in bed to scribble some notes while half asleep. I felt that my days are not full and I enjoyed being bored. It felt strange at first but I started to enjoy the minutes I spent staring out in the rain, the daydreaming, the aimless scrolling on Instagram.

I didn’t miss writing because it wasn’t gone. I just put it on the back burner for a short while, until I figure it out how to enjoy a week without searching fir the right words.

The real world is still out there

When I started writing it filled a gaping hole in my life. One of self-expression and creativity, one of having my voice heard. But with it came a different world of readers, comments, fellow-writers, failures, rejection, drama and stats. This world devoured me. I lived in the haze of views and read ratios, I suffered from unsolicited advice and trolls in my comment sections, I got lost in the maze of self-promotion and self-doubt.

Putting it all aside was the best. It put things in perspective and I needed it. There is more to life than monthly views and earnings. There are bigger issues than being jealous of someone else’s success. The time I spent getting annoyed with the undeserved accomplishment of other writers was a waste of time — and I spent so much time wondering about others that I forgot to wonder about myself. And I forgot that I am not just living in a world of words but also in the real world where important things happen. If only you could see it.

Taking a conscious break was the best decision I made ever since I started to write. Letting go of my self-imposed obligations liberated me and allowed me to recharge. I am not afraid of having lost momentum. I am still here and I know my own worth. My love for writing is stronger and I am looking forward to creating and building with the power of words. And I intend to create a routine where I can enjoy writing for what it is, instead of an obligation. And who knows, maybe I can do better now that I can treat it as a love-project.

Writer. Dreamer. Hopeless romantic. Newsletter: zita.substack.com Email me: zitafontaine (at) gmail

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