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Put Down the Pen and Step Away (rest for writers)

 

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Write every day. Never take a day off. If you don’t write every day you’ll lose your creative mojo.

These are common refrains and advice spouted from the hilltops from many fellow writers and creatives. But is it sound advice?

I believe a consistent writing habit is a good thing and essential for growing in the craft and building skill. Like any good craftsman we need to build the muscle we’ve been given or it can atrophy.

But what are the consequences if we never rest from our creative pursuits?

Last month, January, I took a break from writing. Or, I should say, life forced me to break. My wife was having our fourth child, and I needed to gear back on my creative outlets to focus on the family and caring for my wife.

To be honest, I was scared. I wondered what would happen if I took 3, 4, or 5 weeks off from writing? Would I lose momentum I had built from the years prior? What about the projects left undone? Would the words cease to pour from my mind to the keyboard?

Not so much.

The sabbatical and extended rest was life-giving. I realized after publishing six books the prior year, writing dozens of articles, and producing over 50 podcast episodes a break needed and important for my longevity, health, and creative fire and joy.

I believed the lies. Rest was not an option for the writer. Despite telling creatives of all stripes and kinds, to take days off and longer seasons of rest, I didn’t take my own medicine.

Rest for writers is important because the universe isn’t wired for constant output. Times of rest and refreshment are vital for health of mind, body, and soul. Jewish and Christian folks call this rest Sabbath.

Sabbath is a rhythm of work and rest, rest and work. We work for six days and shut it down for one. Our Sabbath rest is to remind ourselves who is running the universe, and it’s not us. We rest because our lives are not identified by output. We’re human beings made in the image of God and loved by our Creator. This love not predicated on how many words we produce and books we sell. It really is Good News.

We must have built in reminders that life is more than work. Life is more than creativity. Our creative output is not ultimate in the grand scheme of the universe. Important, but not ultimate. We have relationships that needed attention and beauty to enjoy.

What might a Sabbath look like for writers?

1. Take one day off per week to rest.

No writing, creating, or thinking about writing. Make this one sacred day different from all the rest. Go for a run, watch a movie, enjoy the outdoors, worship with your church family, and take a nap.

You’ll be amazed at how taking one day off will spark your energy and creativity the other six days. It will be hard the first time you attempt a day of rest, but you must.

2. Take longer seasons to rest each year.

I find taking a couple weeks off after a book project or a long stretch of creating is helpful. Maybe take a week, two, or three to refuel after the brain is fried.

Take Christmas break off and create January 1. Take June off in the summer and enjoy time with family and friends.

Maybe you’re in a season of life where writing time is reduced. Don’t beat yourself up. Seasons are seasons because they change. You will not have small children forever. Your stressful job is not forever. Take the breaks and rest you need. No one will come and find if you don’t.

Every writer and creator are in different seasons and have certain deadlines and financial goals. Maybe you can’t rest for long stretches, but I bet you can take a day off every week, or two.

I know tons of writers who take Saturdays and Sundays off and still produce hundreds of thousands of words per year.

You are not weak, uncommitted, and not a true writer if you take breaks. You will not forget how to write.

The smart writer and the one looking long term will take Sabbath. The mind, body, and soul are not built to go with no time off and rest.

Take a nap, you’ll thank me later.

Originally published on The Writing Cooperative
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