A Lesson from 2021: Take a Break

As a writer, one of the biggest lessons I learned in 2021 was the importance of taking breaks. 

For the past 6 or 7 years, I really hadn’t taken any breaks from writing. It was one short story to the next. One novel to the next. I’d alternate between revising and drafting, but I’d do some kind of writing thing everyday. Maybe I’d take one or two days off to read a book on a weekend, but that was it. The pause between projects was never more than a couple days. 

This worked out okay for a while, as long as I alternated between revising and drafting frequently enough. But long term, it really was sustainable. 

2020 and 2021 were busy years. And they were traumatic years for me and probably everyone else because living through COVID is traumatic. 

At the end of 2020, I got into Pitch Wars, with is a mentorship program for writers that culminates in an agent showcase. It involved a lot of in-depth revision, and through it, I made some great friends. However, it was a lot of work. 

Right out of Pitch Wars, I got edits back for Earth Reclaimed, and it turned out they were very substantial developmental edits. They took months to get through. 

And even as I finished those, I had two nvelettes I had to keep rewriting and editing for an anthology, Distant Gardens. It was late July before I was done. 

So from mid-november 2020 through the end of July 2021, I had just been revising and editing on deadlines with almost no breaks between. 

When that time ended, finally, I was exhausted. My anxiety was through the roof. I couldn’t edit. I couldn’t revise. I couldn’t write. 

So I took August off.

In the fall, I started a few things, just for fun, but mostly just read. It wasn’t until November, until National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), that I actually wrote another book. And by then, I was ready. It felt so good to write again! 

But even now that I’ve finished writing one book and am sitting down to try and revise one of the six books I need to revise, I’m feeling overwhelmed. Like it’s too much to go back and revise again. 

It’s hard to get back into after all this time and all the memory I have of the stress from the last three things I revised. 

Had I taken more breaks and not let myself get as stressed out and burned out as I did, then I think things would be much easier now. 

I think one of the most important lessons I learned in 2021 is that I need to take breaks. I can’t just keep pushing myself non-stop. It’s okay to rest. It’s not only okay but necessary to take a break.