After more than twenty years of writing professionally, recently I took a ďsabbatical.Ē And Iíll be the first to admit that I did it all wrong. I just stopped on a dime and didnít produce anything for publication for several weeks.
Recharging your batteries by taking time off is wonderful. Hereís how to do it properly.
Have a plan.
Iíve been known to boast about the plethora of story ideas floating around in my head, and Iíve never had writerís block in my life. So I was shocked when all of a sudden I stopped writing. During this ďsabbaticalĒ when normally Iíd be scribbling away during my commute to and from work or at the laundromat, I instead sat and stared into space. I realize now that I needed this nothingness. From now on, Iíll be responsible and plan for it in advance.
Keep everyone in the loop.
When I suddenly stopped writing for no apparent reason, I didnít tell anyone at firstóeven those I owed work. Finally, I explained that I was not writing. Further, I expressed my fears that perhaps Iíd written all I could write and it was time for me to stop. As it turns out editors and other stakeholders were very understanding. I continued my impromptu sabbatical, but this time with a much clearer conscience.
Know you deserve it.
I think the reason I never took a writing-free vacation before is because for my entire career, Iíve been trying to prove something. There are romance novelists who are so prolific they produce a novel every quarter year after year. Once I interviewed such an author who told me she can write 10,000 words in one setting! I wanted to be like her. Since Iím not, I felt I did not deserve a break. In fact deep down inside, I believed I should have been working more, not less.
My accidental sabbatical was a wake up call. I canít compare myself to other writers. While I donít write three books a year, I do write every day. That kind of dedication should be rewarded with time off every so often.
Since I had not planned to take time off, I did not set goals for what I wanted to achieve during the break. My goals could have been to get more rest or to just clear my head of all writing projects and their corresponding deadlines. I did both. And one day after about six or seven weeks, I just started to write again. I began a funny little story solely to entertain myself. This was the greatest accomplishment of all.
By taking time off, I rediscovered why I started to write in the first place. I did not write for publication when I was a kid. I wrote because it was fun!
Thus inspired I made several outlines and began to write articles in earnest again, keeping in mind my true purpose in writingóto enjoy it.