You may (or may not) have noticed that things have gotten a little… quiet around here. For a while my web site was shut down completely. I’ve had technical difficulties to work through, and I’ve had life difficulties to work through. But alas, I am here, and I am ready.
In the past, I have said that I don’t believe in writer’s block or the muse. You can always write, even if you’re not writing what you want to be writing, even if not well. You can always write something. The block is a myth. However, there is a time when you should purposefully talk a break and decide to let the pen fall still. This has been my last few months.
I have not written a new word in about five months. I have edited some novels that I’ve had sitting around, but nothing new. I haven’t blogged, I haven’t done but a video here and there, I’ve been mostly absent from social media. I’ve missed critique group meetings, I’ve read fewer books. In short, I’ve been quietly healing.
After many long months of prayer and deliberation, I made the most difficult decision of my life. I left an emotionally abusive marriage. I packed up (yes, all 700 plus books), I moved out, and I began rebuilding.
While writing and reading before had always been my solace and escape, I found myself unfocused and gaining no pleasure in stories. What I needed more than anything was to not think.
Thank goodness that I’m a gamer and was able to fall back on video games to give me room to breathe and to drag me from the depths of my mind caves. For months, I hid away and survived. But the time has now come. As the legalities become final and life has settled a bit, the leaves are changing and my heart has shifted.
It’s time to start writing again.
I can hear the whispers of NaNoWriMo stirring my excitement. The characters I’ve put on hold have all been calling back. The completed tales, sitting in wait for my red pen, are getting a dusting. I am ready.
But months ago, I was not. And while it was at times stressful to think I had written nothing, blogged nothing, participated in no way in the online community, it was a necessary thing. And there may come a time when it’s necessary for you. Don’t fear that your following will run or that the words will dry up. It’s okay to step back for a while. It’s okay to just breathe. Here are some great example of when it’s time to take a break.
1. Sometimes life is too much
Moving is daunting. Divorce is more daunting. Do them together in a town where your family is far away and you’ve got yourself one heck of a task list. I had so many little things to take care of in the months before, during, and after moving out that some days, I’d add more to my to do list than I’d cross off. Getting the electric put in my name, changing my address everywhere, talking to my lawyer, making sure my kid wasn’t flailing. There was a lot. And I still had to eat, clean, and find a way to keep my new house running. Point is, I had very little time left to read or write. When I did crash at the end of the day, I couldn’t keep my eyes open beyond a paragraph or two. If I sat too long during the day, the task list and piles of boxes started to close in on me like some creepy animatronic come to life (my daughter has recently discovered Five Nights at Freddy’s).
If I had tried to keep my blogging schedule and my YouTube schedule and my editing schedule and my writing schedule, my house would still be full of boxes and nothing would be done. There was simply no time. I had to shift my priorities.
It was hard to let my schedule go. I’m a hard core planner. But at the end of the day, there were no hours left to give and whatever minutes I might have scraped together to produce something would have only led to a less than awesome quality. It was better to put a hold on things until life went back to manageable or until I found a new manageable.
2. Sometimes the emotions are too strong
If I had tried to write something new in the last months, what you would have gotten would have been so full of anger, frustration, pain, and anxiety that it likely would have been unreadable. You would have thought my characters had gone mad because at times I felt like I had. Had I tried to write, I would have shifted whatever emotion should have happened in a scene to whatever emotion I was feeling at the time because the feels were just too strong.
I’m sure you’ve had times where you thought: I’m in the perfect mood to write this one specific scene. It can work for you in amazing ways. But, it can also work against you. People say that divorce is a roller coaster and I agree—sort of. A roller coaster is intense, but it’s fun. It has a clear end and a short ride. Divorce is not the same. You go up and down and backwards and forwards and sometimes you just hang outside the cart altogether. Trying to reign in that level of feeling would take more energy that I had. So, I dealt with what I could deal with and had to be content to let my characters run free on their own for a while. I hope they enjoyed their freedom while it lasted.
3. Sometimes you need to hide
I’m definitely a talk-through-it type of person. But there are some subjects that you only want to talk to certain people about and for a limited time. Rehashing the same crap everyday all day gets tiring. Sometimes it’s good to get quiet and hide from people and social interaction. At least online. I kept a handful of people close that I could talk to at any time, that knew exactly what was going on with me, and that would check on me if I got too silent for too long. But to try to keep up socially and either drag out my darkness for the world to see or pretend to be my happy cheery self, seemed impossible. So I didn’t.
Now that I’ve had time to process some things and do a bit of moving on, it’s easier to talk about. I’m also not in such a twisted place that I feel like every conversation would revolve around what I’m feeling or going through. I’m getting back to myself and feeling like a person again. But for a long time I didn’t. I needed to be able to focus on my day to day, on myself and my child, and not have to worry about the pressure of social interaction.
I’ve used my example of divorce in this post, but these ideas would apply to any sort of significant life change that has left you reeling. Take care of yourself first. Get enough sleep. Eat right. Definitely exercise. These things will allow you to keep your emotions in check and to help those on the journey with you. There will come a day when the pain recedes, when the chaos settles, when the words demand to be written. But there is also a time for silence, for hiding, for healing. If you need a break, give yourself a break. The words will welcome you back with open arms when you’re ready to face them again.