It’s been a minute since my last published blog post (May 26, 2021 to be exact). From December 2020 to May 2021, I was on a pretty good clip when it came to my writing. It helped that there was a lot that I wanted to examine and reflect on so I was able to plan out a schedule of blog post topics. Then, after my 16th blog post, I hit a wall. I seemed to have run out of content ideas and I no longer had the energy to put pen to paper.
Before starting this blog, I had no real sense for how easy or challenging it would be to create content or what a reasonable cadence for publishing looked like. But somewhere along the way, I had read about the importance of consistency when publishing content — that if you wanted to establish a relationship with your readers, it was important to give them content at an expected and consistent rate. So when my “schedule of ideas” started to dwindle, I started to panic and feel guilty that I was “letting down” my readers. Then my guilt turned into a barrier and I stopped writing altogether. Until now.
After a 5-month hiatus, I feel ready to get back to the craft. And of course, I’m getting back in with a self-examination of what I learned from my writing break.
My guilt was self-imposed. It was interesting and uncomfortable to notice the guilt set in. Every day, I’d put writing at the top of my to-do list. I would tell myself to just write a few sentences to keep the writing habit going. And then without fail, writing was always my one daily unchecked to-do item. I think that I felt extra guilty for not writing because writing this blog is part of my biz dev approach. So when I stopped, I felt like I wasn’t getting my work done and not taking my business seriously. But that wasn’t true. Business was still happening regardless of me not writing new content. The real impact to me wasn’t a loss of clients or new business — it was a loss of my enjoyment in writing.
I accepted that I was at a writing crossroads. My break from writing was initially a reaction to my panic and lack of ideas. But over time, my emotional reaction turned into reflection, and eventually acceptance. Accepting that I was at a writing crossroads was freeing. It gave me permission to let go of the guilt and panic and to create the space that I needed to consider what, if anything, would be next.
I renegotiated and reset expectations for myself. Rather than worrying about creating new content, I took the time to reflect on why I write and what is important to me about doing it. I went back and re-read my post, Reflections on Writing. Turns out that the reasons that I had identified for writing are still true for me now.
And I hadn’t run out of ideas. I just needed reminding that ideas often come to me when I create time and space to reflect. So I used my writing break to make that space. I did that by going on more walks (and walking slower), I took longer showers, I meditated, and I went to boxing class everyday. And I did all of those things without guilt — well, mostly without guilt. I am still a work in progress! Mostly, I remembered to pay closer attention to how I was feeling and what I was noticing. Once I did this, I unlocked the content door.
It’s okay to take a break. Earlier this year, I wrote about the importance of honouring the pause. That was in the context of breast cancer and it was a time in my life when a pause was externally forced on me. As sucky as it was to have breast cancer, no one questioned my need to take a break. This time I had no such excuse to take a break and that only fed my guilt. But taking a break or creating a pause, is not taking a break from life. That break is part of life. And it was one that I needed.
Ultimately, taking this break helped me to realize that I had reached the natural end of most first blog post series and that I could think of my blog posts as a series with a beginning and an end. My writing break also helped me to see that the only person putting pressure on me to write was me. Once the pressure came off and I rediscovered my WHY for writing, I was able to map out my next series of blog posts and decide on a monthly cadence.
What cues and signals let you know that it is time to take a break? How might stopping to take a break help you to get unstuck and move forward?