Writing and I Went on a Break

Distance makes the heart grow fonder, right?

Photo: Austin Chan / Unsplash

Writing is something I love. Or rather something I used to love. I used to enjoy setting aside the time to put pen to paper. Writing helps me make sense of things when my brain is unable to. There are times where I don’t even realize I’m upset about something until I’m on page three into journalling.

Sometimes thoughts or feelings are hidden in our subconscious, and we are unaware of them until we get the words down.

But, lately, I’ve been overworking myself a bit. I’ve been telling myself I need to write every day, and I place impossible expectations on myself. I have this idea in my head that everything I write needs to be perfect. The things I write need to be relatable to others so that other people can enjoy my writing. But I’ve been losing sight of what’s important. I’ve been forgetting to write for myself. That’s why I started writing in the first place, for my own pleasure and enjoyment, but lately, I’ve been getting too caught up in idealistic, perfectionist standards.

Realizing I needed a break

We all have limits, but they differ from one another’s. I decided I needed to take a break from writing when I read a quote that was something along the lines of “You need to enjoy writing in order to be a good writer.” That’s when I realized something: I haven’t been finding any pleasure in writing.

The thing that once provided me with comfort and relief is now the reason for my stress.

I ruthlessly compare my work to others. Instead of learning from others’ writing to better my own, I simply use it to put myself down. I’ve been making myself feel bad over the fact that I don’t write the same way others do.

Rather than being resourceful and productive with my writing, I have become pessimistic and inefficient.

I would look at my own writing, after reading others’, and pick out every single thing wrong with it. I had been making myself think that each time I write, it needs to be perfect. I don’t allow myself to ever mess up, and when I do, I never attempt to learn from my mistakes. I just sit around and brood about how I’ll never be as good a writer as this person or how my writing will never have the same ring to it as that person. I would start to think that maybe I shouldn’t be a writer after all.

That’s when it clicked: I had lost the enjoyment I had once found in writing.

Reevaluating my relationship with writing

The relationship I had developed with writing became toxic. My only concern when writing was how others would receive it. I focused merely on “being the best” so that I could win writing contests, get accepted into literary magazines, or have my work go viral online. I couldn’t even read the work of others and enjoy it, it was always about me. I would constantly think “I will never be as good a writer as them” or “I will never be able to write the way they do.” If you continue to belittle yourself by thinking those things, then, of course, you won’t get any better.

We must learn from others. If you use someone else’s work to only point out the flaws of your own, then you will not get very far. Don’t get me wrong, there is always room for improvement. It’s important to realize when a sentence is too bland, or when one paragraph just doesn’t work with the rest of your piece. But it’s just as vital, if not more so, to point out what does work. What did you do right?

We can learn from our mistakes, but we could also learn from our successes.

What flows nicely, which words have a nice ring to it? It’s silly to believe that our work is perfect because there will always be something we can change or fix.

But maybe there comes a point where we just have to let go, and move onto the next thing. It’s like trying to fix a childhood friendship. It’s nice while it lasted, but sometimes people just outgrow each other. Maybe it’s the same for writers and their work. Maybe someone will connect with that poem, essay, or short story you wrote a while ago, and that’s great. But if you can’t really get much more out of it, maybe it’s time to move on and start fresh with something new.

Maintaining the balance between work and play

I wouldn’t call myself a workaholic, but I hate not being productive with my time. I make myself feel guilty when I watch a twenty-minute episode of The Office because it feels like such a waste of time. Those twenty minutes could have been spent reading, writing, or revising. Those are twenty precious minutes of my life that I will never get back. I make myself feel guilty if I’m not writing, or doing something to better my writing, every second of the day.

But I failed to realize something: it’s okay to spend a few minutes of your time on something that may not end up being that productive.

It’s okay to take a break every once in a while.

It’s important to me as a writer to consistently be nurturing my craft, but I’ve forgotten that it’s okay to take a step back every once in a while. It’s okay to watch a little Netflix, listen to a podcast, or play a video game for a little bit. I know what that terrible rut is like when I stop writing for a few days, that turn into a few weeks, and before I know it, I’ve forgotten what it’s like to write at all. I think that’s what most writers are afraid of, falling behind and not being able to catch up. The fear of losing consistency with our writing is one that is completely valid.

I think it’s also important to remember that we need to take breaks every now and then, or else our writing will become stale.

Learning to enjoy life again

I was upset at first when I thought about taking a break from writing, but ultimately I knew it was something I needed. Writing had become a chore, something that was no longer fun for me, so what could I really lose? It was hard to go from writing every day to not writing at all. Although I didn’t take a very long break (it was only two days), I needed those two days to give me some space from writing.

I knew I would miss writing dearly, but deep down I felt we needed some time apart to rekindle our love for each other.

It was refreshing not having to stress about writing something amazing. It was like a weight off my shoulders in a way. When I stopped writing and took a minute to breathe, I realized I was “on” all the time. I would constantly be checking my e-mails, hoping to be informed that I had been discovered by a literary agent who loved my work, or that one of my pieces had gone viral.

It was tiring. I was constantly waiting for something to happen. I was constantly alert because I didn’t want to miss anything. During my two-day break from writing, I had told myself to take a break from checking my emails so frequently. I think that had also been part of the problem.

It’s crazy how unaware I became of my harmful mindset and unhealthy habits. I’m one who likes to live in the moment and enjoy the little things, so I don’t tend to lose sight of what’s important.

Yet I had completely forgotten how to be myself, let alone enjoy myself.

I think one reason I wasn’t enjoying writing anymore was because I had forgotten how to appreciate life on a day to day basis.

It’s important to give yourself time to breathe, the space to exist. It’s alright to have times during the day where we aren’t super productive. We need to enjoy life around us while we can because we won’t be around forever.

It’s important to get things done, but it’s just as important to enjoy the little things.

If you’ve been struggling with your writing, consider giving yourself some space. Sniff the roses, breathe the air. You’d be surprised to see what you had been missing out on.

creative writing major at emerson college, based in boston & philly, they/them

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Annalisa Hansford

Annalisa Hansford

creative writing major at emerson college, based in boston & philly, they/them

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