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  • LV Ditchkus

Breaks: Help or Hindrance?

Some authors write every day. Others (like me) write a minimum number of hours per week. When I look back at my logged hours, I see very few weeks when I neglected to write. That’s not surprising since writing is my creative outlet. But there were a few weeks each year when I spent zero hours writing.

What happened during those dry weeks? Commonly, we were traveling. Not the type of trips with lots of plane or car rides where I could squeeze in a few hours generating ideas or editing a manuscript—the trips without time to write were spent with another couple or family. Writing took a back seat to spending every spare minute talking with the people I care about.

Recently, I took a two-week break from authoring. Without guilt or excuses, I hiked, entertained friends, tried new recipes, and worked on a jigsaw puzzle. Occasionally, I mused about plot points or where my next novel’s characters would go. But mostly, I focused on life outside of writing.

Did my inattention to my craft mean I was getting the dreaded Writer’s Block?

I think not.

This experience made me think back to early in my first career as a bank examiner. Back then, every new assignment (with technical nuances and unique supervisory challenges) held me in awe. Afraid to miss anything, I didn’t take a vacation for the first several years. My colleagues became my friends as well as business traveling companions. We shared meals and personal stories and sought out places to jog or workout in rural towns across the Midwest and deep South. I lived and breathed banking risks and regulatory infractions.

Years later when I started writing seriously, I took a similar all-in approach. Besides spending many hours per week drafting stories and chapters, I joined critique groups and writing organizations. Several times a year, I attended conferences and workshops on craft and publishing. My enthusiasm and yearning to improve have not diminished. Today, I kick-stared edits for my next novel.

My advice? Don’t let a holiday hiatus turn into a wall you can’t climb over. Set an end date for your break and start refreshed. Take those ideas that percolated while you were engaged elsewhere and turn them into a new short story or charge into your rested novel.

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