I Took a Break from Writing My Novel and the World Didn’t End

I think we’ve established that I am a take-charge, go-get-’em gal. Maybe sometimes a little too much so. My brain is restless. It drives me to chew up feelings and experiences and spit them out as words and stories and more words and more stories.

I always want to keep going.

Recently I drew up some goals (and told you all, repeatedly). It was time for me to get down to business. Fifteen minutes a day, five days a week. Making up a bunch of stuff about cranky fairies.

And I did. For three months, I set a timer and sat down, early in the morning, late at night, when I couldn’t wait to put pen to paper and when I wanted to do everything but. I made sure to show up and do it. Even when it felt like another task, another timed task, at that, I made it a different part of my daily job—not the job of copyediting and accumulating billable time in 15-minute increments—but a better, me-centered job. Here’s what I want to work on. No one was paying me, and the only person who was making me do it was me.

I need an elf of some sort to help with all this work.

It’s the home office as mission control center. Can you count five screens or gadgets?

Then, one day, after another week of what has felt like an endless stream of weeks of high-volume, high-stress, deadline-driven, no-breathing-room-ever work from eight a.m. to five p.m., I decided to take an extra day off from my novel.

Oh, that relentless overachiever who lives in my head did not like that.

“You’re a writer,” she said. “Writers write. They don’t let their big messy in-progress first drafts languish, lose steam, falter.”

(Well, some of them do, but we’re talking about accomplished writers. Successful writers.)

“You didn’t meet a goal,” she continued. “Quitter. Charlatan. Wimp.”

The other gal who resides in my brain said, “You took a break. So? Did the world end? No. The world didn’t end. The writing police didn’t pound down your door and drag you away. You weren’t banned from Twitter. Your notebook didn’t spontaneously combust. You still have the tools. You still have the story. You’ll get there when you get there.”

(Editor’s note: See also a David Sedaris story that maybe involves his brother. I can’t remember the title, but here’s a line that sticks out: “I’m guessing I’ll be done when I’m fucking finished.”)

For whatever reason, the relentless overachiever sat down. She shut up.

Finally.

I enjoyed the silence so much, I took another day off. And another. And a few more.

It takes years to make a book. It will probably take two years for me to write the damn first draft, and I’m OK with that. Last time I checked, I’m the only one keeping track.

I’ve been jotting notes. My stack of scratch paper is at the ready, waiting for me to build more of the world I’ve started (something like 13,000 words, and counting).

Even with all my love of structure, and rules, and go-getter goodness, I have to say: I’m a much more relaxed writer now, here, in this shapeless land that holds the desire to write but has no timer attached.

Long live the freedom to write in this world that didn’t end.

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2 Responses to “I Took a Break from Writing My Novel and the World Didn’t End”

  1. […] I can guess what you’re thinking. Didn’t I just wax poetic (and proud) about taking a break from writing my novel, which would, theoretically, mean that I’m taking a break from telling […]

  2. […] took a break from writing my novel. It’s a baby novel at this point, but I took a break anyway. I declared my break proudly. Look at […]

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