An employee grinding away at the same menial tasks day after day. An author struggling with writer’s block. A professional athlete in a slump. A self-employed entrepreneur exhausted from constantly marketing their brand/product. A blogger whose posts garner only a few views.
Sometimes, no matter how much you love something, you need a break.
Recently, I took a double hiatus, from writing and my full-time job. Here’s what I learned.
1. You can have too much of a good thing. I love writing. Short stories, novels, articles, blog posts, you name it, and I probably love creating it. Since January, I’ve produced more than 15 short stories, 10 blog posts, a full draft of my novel, an MTV article, and a couple poems, all while holding down three jobs.
By the end of May, I had zero energy and massive writer’s block. I was overdrawn — burnt out — and I still needed to enter to some local contests and work on my novel and query agents and polish some other pieces and submit to a few literary journals and maybe some other things, too, if I could find time. My to-do list ran a full 8.5″ x 11″ page long — and grew, as did my panic when I couldn’t produce any writing at all.
Then my grandfather passed away in the beginning of June.
My mom needed help to finalize his affairs, so I took a week off to help. During that time, I didn’t even try to write anything — and I felt better. Though I remained busy that sad week off, breaking my work-write-repeat schedule allowed me to recuperate and rest my writing muscles. Balance is key.
Which brings me to number two:
2. Taking a break reaffirmed my love for writing. I won’t lie — I didn’t miss writing those first few days. My life was a whirlwind as I organized my bereavement leave and attempted to process everything that had happened. Writing didn’t even cross my mind.
But a few days later, while packing and moving boxes at the house that now belonged to my grandmother, I jotted down a story idea in my phone. And then, twenty minutes, another. Conversations sparked character ideas and metaphors. The world around me was alive with story potential.
My writing hiatus allowed me to recuperate from feeling overdrawn, for sure, but it also reaffirmed that I don’t want a life without creating: writing is fun, and I’d forgotten that.
3. It’s always easier to solve someone else’s problems — but yours can be easy, too, if you give them space. My bereavement leave wasn’t only a hiatus from writing: it was a break from my jobs, too. My motto was, “Hustle now; relax later.” If I worked three jobs now, I could save money for later. I’d write on the side. No matter that I wasn’t happy — life was stable this way. Easier.
That’s the kiss of death right there: easier.
Moving boxes at my grandmother’s house, I had a lot of time to think. I went to college and got a degree in English so I could write and edit — and then took a secretarial position because it was comfortable. It was what I knew from my high school and college jobs. Even though I came home feeling drained, being a secretary was easy because I knew I could succeed.
How was I supposed to grow when I was too scared to try? Easy meant settling. If I wanted to build a freelance writing and editing business, I needed the time to do it — no more of this “on the side” nonsense. No more letting fear win.
So I thought about it. I examined my finances. I thought some more. And three weeks later, I decided to leave that job. An easy decision? Not by any means. But I couldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t try.
Thank you everyone for your patience these past few weeks — I plan to post bi-weekly again starting now 🙂