In Defense of Long Writing Breaks…

Chuck Taylors

This weekend I sat down and re-read my novel in progress for the first time in six months. It isn’t like I haven’t been thinking of the main characters in my story since I put them down — but I just haven’t been able to bring myself to sit back down and write the thing.

When I turned part of my novel into my thesis board in March as part of the requirements for graduating with an MFA, my “completed” manuscript was about half of a novel with about 39,000 words and a huge hole in the middle of the book. In the last few weeks of editing I made a few changes that altered certain plotlines completely and when I was asked at my thesis board questions pertaining to the missing middle section of the book the answer was — quite simply — that I didn’t know yet.

I think that I’ve been avoiding answering these questions for the past six months. I have been waiting for the answers to smack me in the face one afternoon so that I could get back to writing.

But maybe, just maybe, the trick to figuring out these mysteries is just to sit down and to figure out these mysteries. Which I’m going to do. This month.

But, in defense of my six months off from writing — I will say this. When I sat back down this past week and read my work in process to re-familiarize myself with the characters and the story, I remembered how much I love my characters. How much I love my story. And I finally feel like I need to write this, that I need to finish it, to tell these characters’ stories, and to tell my own.

I don’t think that I would feel this way if I had sat down right after I passed my thesis boards and kept writing. I think that I was so lost in the day-to-day writing of the thing that I had forgotten why I wanted to write it in the first place. And now that I’ve revisited my characters and their lives for the first time in six months, I remember why I was so invested in them.

I hope that this motivation carries me forward this week into writing and working on my book for the first time since early April.

Ripley New York Sunset

I think that taking a break off of my work helped me to be excited about it again, but I think that in the future I’d like to keep my breaks shorter and more intentional. I get the feeling I’m the kind of writer that writes in phases, but we’ll see what the future holds.

Onward to finishing the first full draft of this novel soon! How is your work in progress coming? Do you take breaks off from writing or from certain pieces before you come back and edit or finish them?

Thanks for reading!


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