This article was written by Jen Braaksma, a writer and book coach with a decade of experience as a journalist and nearly two as a high school English and writing teacher. With a focus on fiction and memoir for writers of every ability and experience level, Jen loves to assist in shaping stories exactly how the author wants them, from inception of the idea through revisions. Her debut novel, Evangeline’s Heaven is a YA fantasy which features a strong, fierce young woman, learning to see the world for what it is, not what she wants it to be. You can connect with Jen on her website https://www.jenbraaksma.com/.
If you’re a writer—and I use that term inclusively, whether you’re published or not, whether you consider yourself amateur, aspiring, emerging or experienced—you feel the pressure. Coming up with ideas. Finding time to write. Figuring out how to write. Juggling writing responsibilities, with, well, life. Then, if you have a book in the world, you have to market and sell it. Connect with readers on social media. Build your author platform.
And sometimes it feels hopeless, right? There are so many books published, by traditional, hybrid or independent means, that you sometimes wonder if it’s even worth it. If your voice could or should even be heard. It’s all enough to feel like you should throw in the proverbial towel.
People aren’t paying me enough to deal with all this! you may cry out. What’s worse is that you’re right. Most of the time you’re not getting paid. In fact, you’re probably doing the paying, by investing in yourself through book coaches, editors, designers, publishers, publicists. Or in babysitting costs, take-out and cleaning services because how does anyone have time to look after kids, cook, clean and write??
So how do you keep motivated? How do you keep faith in yourself to keep going?
Simple. You stop writing.
I don’t mean forever! I also don’t mean just until you find new elder care for the senior in your life or until your next big project at work is off the table. I mean you consciously, seriously, with great care and planning, give yourself a break.
Oh God, more care and planning? Yes. For yourself. We focus so much on our readers, wanting to give them the best story we can. We focus so much on our characters, making them as real and relatable as we can. But save some empathy for yourself as a writer. How you feel deserves to be validated.
And part of what often stresses us as writers is the guilt. Not enough time, not enough money, and how dare I call myself a writer if I hardly write and never seem to finish? Or, if you do find time to write and are able to finish, have you enjoyed it? No writing process is a barrel of laughs—writing is hard, which so many of us forget—but is there still a spark of joy? Has it disappeared? Disintegrated into the ether of everyday life?
Here’s how you reclaim it: you give yourself permission to stop writing. You decide if it’s going to be for one week, one month, one year, it doesn’t really matter. The point is that you are deciding. Not your pesky in-laws or your nosy neighbors or your hard-driving boss. Not your spouse or most well-meaning friend or even your favorite critique partner whose feedback you rely on. You decide. You’re in control. And in the writing world that feels like you have anything but control, that goes a long way in rekindling your interest.
So, what, I just get sucked into chores and work and life? Sure, if that’s what has to happen. But regardless of what you do with your non-writing time, it will be you in charge. Without guilt.
I repeat, without guilt.
And you know what will happen? One of two things:
1. You can’t get your mind off your story, your characters, your ideas.
You keep thinking about how to draft the next scene or what social media post you want to write next. Don’t give in to those temptations, though. Stick with your moratorium. That way you can enjoy the anticipation! You’ll be excited to get back to your writing project, whatever it is, whatever stage you’re at. You’ll be reinvigorated by the reminder that, yeah, you do actually like this writing thing, despite all the challenges.
2. You’ll breathe a sigh of relief that all that pressure is gone.
That you don’t have the albatross hanging around your neck, that you’re finally free of the ball and chain shackling you to this life. And if that’s the case, walk away! There are too many other good things in life for you to enjoy if your enjoyment of writing has run its course. There’s no shame in that. No failure. If your interests have shifted, good for you! Follow your passions, wherever they may lead. Your purposely-planned vacation from writing will help you decide whether writing is, indeed, still one of those passions.
So after your break, the one you controlled, you’re either excited to dive back in or excited to move on.
Of course neither way guarantees “easy”—no such thing in the writing life—but it’s not about easy. It’s about excitement. Passion. Joy. Fulfillment.
So to remember why you started writing in the first place?
Simply stop writing.
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