The book of Ecclesiastics tells us that there is a season to every activity. We are all familiar with the “list,” but nowhere does it say, “A time to write and a time to refrain from writing.” Still, God Himself provides us with a cyclical example by resting on the seventh day. It is reasonable to assume, then, that creative activities like writing also benefit from a season of rest.
Taking a sabbatical from writing should not be considered unproductive. Like so many examples from nature, our writing improves–flourishes even–when we allow ourselves time to recharge. Reading, traveling, gardening, or time spent with family are all good ways to replenish our metaphorical tanks. It’s hard to keep giving if the tank is empty. However, taking a break from writing in order to refresh oneself is not the same as finding excuses, a practice that is usually passed off as writers’ block. The first will enhance your writing. The second will kill it.
I recommend laying a piece of writing aside between drafts–especially longer pieces like a full manuscript. Come back to the work with fresh eyes and be surprised by the improvements that result. I also think a sabbatical is necessary after a project is complete. It is important to distance yourself for a time in order to gain some objectivity. Plus, there is nothing wrong with allowing yourself to bask in the accomplishment before jumping into the next project.
Life outside writing may dictate when and where you take your break. Illness, family issues, and other stress can force us into a state of writing dormancy, and usually these types of circumstances require a time of rest or recovery. If we try to press forward, our writing may actually suffer, coloured, as it were, with the tone of whatever difficulties we are experiencing. I like to think that my writing is a ministry, and therefore, I must be very aware of God’s timing–even during the writing process.
These are all valid reasons to take a Sabbath rest from writing. However, there can be a fine line between a much needed time of recharging and making excuses. If you are serious about writing, at some point, you just have to put your butt in the chair and get back to work. I have found that when I don’t feel like writing, if I just do it for five minutes, chances are I will be re-inspired and want to continue. It’s called summoning the muse, not the other way around. If you find you are watching a lot of TV, for instance, may I suggest that you have been sucked into the laziness trap, not actually recharging your batteries?
It’s really up to each individual to gauge how much time is needed during these sabbatical seasons. While I think we all need to take a break once in awhile, not everyone needs them as frequently or for as long a period of time. So, take the time to recharge–guilt free. Just make sure that when you get back to writing, you don’t let the word recharge become an excuse not to write.