When Words Take A Holiday


Rules of writing you can break

“Write,” they all say, “just write.”

To be a writer, one has to write. And one is expected to be able to pull the very act of writing out of a hat at the drop of… erm… another… hat…


“Just write,” they all say. “Plough on through. Whether you feel like writing or not. In the face of writer’s block. When you have so many ideas you can’t choose the next one. In good times, bad times, sunshine and showers, just write!”

That’s another rule of writing I’m breaking, OK?

Sometimes all you can do is not write. Some days you even sit down with the best will in the world and all good intentions of cranking out a couple of thousand words at the very least. You have the time and the ideas.

Then the words don’t come.

Sometimes the words go on a little mini-break to the coast, dragging a suitcase full of fish-paste sandwiches and Cornettos behind them. Then you’re left sitting in front of the keyboard wordless and it’s not very long before motivation, desire and The Muse all sidle away to catch up with the words and get some ozone in their lungs. And, if I know my Muse, a couple of sneaky G&Ts.

You find yourself scraping together clunky phrases, ambiguous sentences, painfully poor prose, excessive alliteration and generally forced writing which is no fun to write or read.

So I think that sometimes it’s OK not to write. You’re still a writer.

Am I right?


20 thoughts on “When Words Take A Holiday

  1. Gwen Stephens

    I think taking a break (from anything we do regularly, writing included) is healthy! It helps us return with a fresh perspective and a renewed interest and love for the endeavor.


  2. I would prefer my words to be taking beef paste, onion and HP sauce sandwiches, but I suppose it depends how The Muse is feeling when she puts their lunch together at 4am when it’s cold and dark, when they live in The Midlands and the coast is as far away as you can possibly get…. OH, sorry, just reminiscing!
    I agree, sometimes the words just aren’t there.
    But I also agree – you are still A Writer.
    Really well-written thoughts. And it certainly isn’t just you! 🙂


  3. Most certainly, we need our healthy breaks. Where else would inspiration come from? When I’m really stuck, I just take the day off and do pensive things like take long showers. The ideas will come, baiting the words and the writing mood and then we’re back in the game. Problem is, I take waaaayyy too many of these breaks. To the point where I’m still labouring on chapter 1. The joke’s on me 😛

    Thanks for sharing!


  4. I’ve been on an extended no writing holiday for what seems like ages. Just couldn’t seem to get the words from my brain to my fingers, in fact couldn’t even seem to get the words to stay in my head. So I’ve forced myself to follow some sort of prompt every day for August. There’s nothing great about anything I’ve done but I’ve got lots of inspiration for the novel I’ve started so I’m happy about that at least. Great article 🙂


  5. I’m weary tonight from hours of editing. I’d like to pack a suitcase and run away somewhere with a fish sandwich or two. Hop a train, get on a plane, steal a car or bike. The Muse laughs gleefully at me from over there behind the chair – there are no breaks possible during editing. One can’t even claim there are no words – oh there are words enough. Nice post. You’re right – sometimes you don’t write and it’s OK.


    • One of the blessings/curses of being a writer is that you can do it anywhere, even on a train or plane (maybe not a bike though). Unlike, say, a welder. So even when you’re on the move there’s no respite from the feeling that you could/should be writing. I recommend throwing a shoe at the Muse.


  6. Yes! You can take a break every now and then! I’ve found that a few days completely away from the writing, not even thinking about it at all, really gets those words frantic to come back when I’m ready to start again. When you ignore them, they begin to think you don’t need them anymore, you see. And they start getting a little concerned when you won’t let them into your head for a couple days. They begin to beg and plead and whimper and claw at the door like sad, lost puppies. So when you finally welcome them back with open arms like prodigal sons, they are so thrilled they will work three times as hard!!!!


  7. I agree with Munchkinwrites – take a long shower and the ideas will flow along with the water. My other method is to, once the shoes have been removed of course, lie on the bed and visualise the story so far. It usually coalesces nicely once all external distaction have been removed. It’s my way of tricking my Muse into thinking I’m going to sleep. The ideas peek out from their dark hiding place and scurry along the skirting boards until they reach the bed. Then they sneak in through my ear and perform an Irish jig inside my supposedly-sleepy brain. That’s when the butterfly net comes out and catches them all, ready for use in my current story. Mwuhahaha……


  8. Sometimes, when I’m blocked, I think what’s actually happening is my muse so busy solving a problem for me that she can’t respond to my summons. She can’t even spare a moment to explain to me what she’s doing.

    If that’s true, then forcing myself to write—forcing my muse away from whatever she’s doing—does more harm then good. It’s better to try to relax and be patient. Maybe go for a nice, long walk or something.


  9. I completely agree with you! Sometimes we simply need to let our muse take a break. The great part is, as writers, our brains keep working. I find that sometimes after a full week or two leaving a particular work was just what I needed to do – I come back with a lot of different, fresh ideas. Nice post!


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