The writing hiatus is something you’ve definitely contemplated or encountered if you’re an aspiring or active writer.
“It’s been a while since I’ve written anything.”
“I’m going to take a break from writing and focus on other things for a while.”
Do these phrases sound familiar to you? Taking a hiatus, or what some people call “taking time off,” can seem like something that isn’t beneficial in the long run, but it doesn’t have to be! Writers often fear that coming back after an extended break will result in lost momentum and creativity but that isn’t always the case.
Keep reading to know how you can navigate around a hiatus and when to take one.
- What is a writer’s hiatus and how can it help you as a writer?
- How to make the most of your time off
- When should you come back from a hiatus?
- Tips for coming back with renewed creativity, passion, and focus
- Get productive hiatus-ing now!
What is a writer’s hiatus and how can it help you as a writer?
It’s pretty simple: A hiatus is nothing but a break. Consider it a sabbatical of sorts. In the context of writing, it can be an extended period of time when you’re not working on your craft and focus more on other things instead.
People take this kind of break for different reasons: some writers want to get away from their screen while others need a mental health day or two.
A lot of writers hear the word ‘hiatus’ and channel their inner Alexis from Schitt’s Creek, going “Ew, no. That look’s no good for me.”
But taking a hiatus isn’t always a bad thing and can actually help you as a writer. Will you lose your writing momentum if you take a break?
Short answer: No. The hiatus didn’t come out of anywhere and there’s no need to be anxious about it either. If you’re taking time off for mental health reasons, this means that your mindset is prepared for the next step forward after an extended period of time.
Here are a couple of reasons why you should consider taking a writing hiatus:
- You’re burned out
- Not feeling inspired to write a single word
- Writer’s block is running rampant
- Life happened
These are just a couple of reasons, but the most important thing here is that you know why you need this break.
It’s easy for some people to say “you should suck it up and keep writing” or start berating the writer who took an off. It’s also easy for some writers to jump into a writing hiatus without knowing what they’re doing and then start feeling guilty about it.
When it comes to writing hiatuses, it’s all about having balance.
How to make the most of your time off
So, you’ve decided to go on a hiatus. That’s great, but you shouldn’t just use the hiatus as an excuse to procrastinate from writing itself. Here’s how you can make the most of your time off writing:
Read books, watch shows and movies that inspire your writing.
As writers, our minds are always creating stories, whether we are actively writing or not. Sometimes it’s nice to take a step back from creating your own story world, to dive into someone else’s story for a little bit.
When you’re on a writer’s hiatus, it’s important to keep your creative juices flowing. Some writers are inspired by the works of other people and use this inspiration as motivation to keep writing. Others find that taking a break from their favorite TV shows and movies helps them reconnect with their own work.
Personally, I try to gear what I’m watching/reading towards what I plan on working on next. If I’ve got a romance fic on the horizon, I try to consume more of that genre.
What matters is, you have fun with it. After all, it’s like a mini creative vacation you’re taking for yourself!
Take time off from social media and the internet at large.
This is important. Social media is a double-edged sword when it comes to the writing life and taking time off from social media can help you not only as a writer but also as an individual too.
First of all, it will help you focus. You know how when you sit down in front of your computer, with good intentions to write, but then you find yourself trawling through Twitter and Facebook and a whole bunch of other websites that have absolutely nothing to do with writing? And then when you finally get around to it, you are so tired that you can’t think straight?
Taking time off from the internet will help you stop doing this. It will also make you realize how much more productive you are without the distractions that come with being constantly connected.
During your hiatus, you should try engaging with other forms of art that don’t require an all-consuming internet dive, such as reading or watching movies.
Get your life in order.
This means organizing your finances, getting more sleep, and taking care of yourself! You can’t write well if you’re not doing anything else right.
The main thing about a hiatus is that it’s supposed to be self-directed. If something happens during the writing break—like mental illness or some kind of trauma—it’s not the end of the world, and that requires some self-care.
At the end of the day, your biggest priority should be you.
When should you come back from a hiatus?
The next big question most writers have is, “When do I end my hiatus?” Everything has its end, even the hiatus you took.
The moment you start to feel the itch to write again, you should say goodbye to your hiatus and open the doors to your next literary journey.
It’s time to get tackling on edits on that draft you just finished. Or maybe, you can put your inspiration to use and start crafting a new story idea.
The answer is there is no ‘right time’ to end a hiatus. There will be no grand signal from the universe that it’s time to revive your writing. The biggest signal should come from within.
Once you feel like your creativity is replenished and your batteries recharged, it’s time to get writing again!
Tips for coming back with renewed creativity, passion, and focus
It can be hard to get back into writing after taking a long break. Here are some tips to rekindle your creative fire and get back to your writing streak.
The great thing about starting small is that you can’t fail. I try to think of it as taking baby steps. Once you start moving forward, you can make the necessary adjustments along the way. There’s no need to go overboard.
When you come back from a hiatus, you might feel like tackling the writing projects with all you’ve got and try to finish them as soon as possible. You should avoid this at all costs because trying too hard can leave your work feeling forced and fake instead of genuine.
Just because the world hasn’t heard from you in a while doesn’t mean you have to come roaring back with a 700-page opus or an award-winning documentary film.
Give yourself something easy to jump back into.
Spend time with your characters
This is especially important if you took a hiatus because of writer’s block. Spend time with them, become friends with your characters again before committing to writing anything else.
The more time you spend listening to your characters, the faster you’ll be able to jump back into the narrative and write from their perspective.
When I’m on a writing hiatus (which is almost always unintentional and usually due to working on other projects), I like to take walks and talk with my characters. It’s not as crazy as it sounds!
I don’t mean I literally talk to them; I mean that I think about them often when I’m out walking, running errands, or working out. And I ask them questions.
- “What are you thinking about right now?”
- “Who do you need to talk with most?”
- “What is your greatest fear?”
- “What do you care about most?”
For me, this has been a great way to get back into writing after a break, because rather than sitting down at my computer and feeling overwhelmed and discouraged by what needs to be written, I instead have a chance to reconnect with my characters first. And then they tell me what they want me to know.
Suddenly, instead of feeling overwhelmed by the project in front of me, I feel excited by all the possibilities! And that excitement leads me back into writing.
Don’t be afraid to take breaks in between projects.
This isn’t the same as taking a hiatus but it can help rejuvenate that creative spark even more! You don’t have to write every single day for hours on end—it might actually hurt creativity rather than help it.
If you’ve just finished up a project or feel lost about what to do next, don’t start planning the next project right away. Instead, give yourself at least a few days off. I know that’s hard to do because we all worry that if we stop working we won’t be as productive. But trust me, this will help you get more done in the long run by helping you stay focused and motivated.
If you don’t take breaks and just jump right into the next project without thinking about what you actually want to do, then there’s a good chance that you’ll be burnt out from the outset.
It’s also a good idea to take writing breaks throughout the week. It will help you stay fresh and passionate about what you’re working on too!
For example, I do my best to write every day and while weekends are generally the best time for writers to go all-in on their WIPs, I spent this weekend relaxing and doing less.
I needed to recharge but in that time, I’ve been thinking about the next arc of my novel.
That fires me up for writing come Monday.
Stretch your creative muscles through writing exercises
When starting a writing project or returning from a hiatus, it can be difficult to find the creative spark needed to get back into a groove.
Writing exercises and prompts are helpful for writing practice. They help writers get used to writing regularly again, especially in the creative writing world where inspiration is crucial.
Writing exercises can help get the juices flowing so that when it comes time to write, you’ve already got all of these great ideas ready for your draft!
Re-establish your routine
This is probably one of the most important things to do when it comes to your hiatus.
When you’ve taken a hiatus from writing, the hardest part is getting back into practice. After all, as they say, “practice makes perfect,” and when you’ve taken an extended period away from your craft, you’ve got to get back into the swing of things.
The good news is that it’s really not that hard to get started again. And once you have a new piece written, you’ll discover how easy it was for your creative juices to flow again.
To get going again, start by re-establishing your routine. If you usually write in the morning before work, then make sure you’re up and writing in the morning. If you usually write at night after dinner, then take a few evenings off from watching TV and dedicate them to getting some words on the page.
Re-establishing a routine will help you reconnect with writing and remind yourself why you love writing in the first place!
Once you’ve gotten back into your routine, then let yourself be free with your writing. Don’t judge what comes out on the page. Just keep writing. That’s how you’ll get back into practice again.
Create a reward system
You have to take a break from your writing for extended periods of time for a variety of reasons. It’s important to not beat yourself up about it, but be aware that coming back to the same motivation after you’ve been gone can be really hard.
I like to create reward systems for myself when I’m in this position. For instance, I’ll treat myself to a new book or movie if I meet my goal of finishing a manuscript by a certain date. And if I want to get really crazy, I’ll reward myself with chocolate.
Whatever you need to give yourself some extra motivation, don’t be afraid to do it.
After all, the only one in control of your success is you!
Get productive hiatus-ing now!
So there you have it: everything about writing hiatuses and how to navigate around the tricky venture with ease. There’s no reason to be afraid of taking a writing hiatus, as long as you know how to stay productive during the break.
Just remember that it is okay to take time off for yourself! You were not put on this earth for your writing and nothing else matters if you don’t have your health and wellness in place first.
So, have you attempted a writing hiatus before? How did it go? Let me know in the comments!