Sometimes, a Break from Writing is the Best Next Step

By Alissa Johnson

Life has this serendipitous feel sometimes, and the last couple of weeks has been one of those times. A few of my clients and I happen to be in the same phase of writing: we've compiled a lot of pages, and now we need to take stock of where we are. 

I've been writing a story about a female scientist (late 1800s, I think, though that's still up for debate). It began as a short story, and I now have somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 pages. So as you can tell, it's becoming a novel.

More than any other project, I've given myself the freedom to follow the story rather than thinking it up ahead of time or having to know what it's going to become.

That means I have 150 pages written from different points of view and that don't necessarily go in order. It's made the writing more rewarding than ever, because I am always learning new things about my characters and the story.

But I also reached a point where I wasn't sure what I had or where to go next. So I spent the last couple of weeks reading. Not critiquing. Not revising. Just seeing what's there. I've also gone through my reader's comments to see what resonated with her, and what she's thinking about how the story might unfold.  

When I'm done, I'll probably do some freewriting about the main storyline and then map out what I know about the different pieces and how they fit together. 

As a result of all of this, the only writing I've done is some journaling. The same is true for some of my clients, who've been going through a similar process.

It could be tempting to get impatient. Or feel guilty about being away from the page. 

But sometimes, the work of writing isn't writing.

I feel like I've blogged that line before. But sometimes we need to be reminded more than once: there's no need to feel bad about that time away from writing. You're doing the work to write in a more informed and focused way.

I share this in case you need to be reminded: Your next step might be something other than writing. You can actually find clarity now. Put pen to paper: Would something other than writing help you and what might that next step be?

P.S. Wish writing could be easier? Learn how it can be with my FREE three-part series, Inside the Writer's Mind. You can learn how to end the struggle and work with yourself today.