Writing Advice: You Can Come Back


For some writers, being engaged in the craft of writing is a constant process. For some people, breaks or vacations from writing are not even considered. That’s all well and good and, if you are one of those writers, then more power to you. But for us mere mortals, sometimes a hiatus is necessary. Sometimes the idea train just stops right in the middle of the track and the only way to eventually keep going is to step off and get some fresh air in the land of Not Writing. Now, that metaphor may be a bit awful, but please bear with me.

For those of us who sometimes need to take a break from the world of writing and from the fictional worlds that we have created, I have some good news. Even if you leave, you can always come back. I know that seems like a simple thing to state, but the fear of not being able to return to writing is quite real. I know I’ve had a few years when National Novel Writing Month ends, I take one week off to clear my head, and then feel like I’m unable to dip back into the story that I had been so engrossed in for thirty days straight. I’ve even felt this after writing for several hours and getting on a roll. There is an anxiety that creeps up to tell you that, even if you have other things to do, you’d better keep on writing because you may not get this inspiration back.

This is a legitimate fear, and there’s no need to be ashamed if you’ve felt it before. And your fears will probably prove to be well-founded. When you step away from a story or project for any length of time, you do get taken out of the mindset that was helping you remain inspired. When you come back, your writing will feel stilted and your brain will seem to be uncooperative. But there is hope!

In a post written for Buzzfeed this past August, author Lev Grossman discussed his experience writing his first novel. The post is eloquent and interesting, but I want to talk about one quote from it in particular. In the article, Grossman said, “The creative life is forgiving: You can betray it all you want, again and again, and no matter how many times you do, it will always take you back.”

I think the reason this quote is true lies in what the creative life means. Largely, it means living in your own head and being accountable only to yourself and your own creative ambitions. You are the only one you need to apologize to if you leave the creative life. If you have the capability to forgive yourself for leaving, then the creative life will forgive you as well.

So, on the cusp of the holiday season, if you feel that you need to step back from your writing projects to get some space and some fresh air — either real or metaphorical — proceed without fear! Read good books, watch good television, and savor the world around you. This means that when you do return to the creative life, your head will be filled with new, fresh ideas to apply to your projects. And those projects will be sitting there still, just waiting for you to come around again.

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan


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