The Unexpected Pros (and cons) of Taking A Break

Why it’s important to check the facts before you overreact

So, after months and months of putting it off, I finally opened my main WiP. My brain had been playing around with the idea of opening my manuscript for a while, but I couldn’t quite force myself to make the leap. Until the other day. When I opened it up and experienced a couple of different surprises.

First, it wasn’t awful. In fact, some of it was actually, dare I say it…good. I enjoyed reading the first chapter quite a lot. It needed a couple of updates, but overall, I was pretty pleased with the way the story was going.

Until, I encountered my second surprise. As I read a few more chapters I didn’t recognise them. And some of the content I was sure I’d written in the previous edit round seemed to be missing. Cue me digging through every single iteration of my manuscript that I could get my hands on – this involved three different laptops and a lot of frustration as I failed to find the version I was looking for.

At first I managed to remain calm, but as I devoured all the different versions and none revealed the content I was looking for, panic and upset set in. This led to a burgeoning sense of ‘what’s the point?’ and I immediately felt my motivation dip. After all, I knew I’d spent a long time on the last set of edits, and if they’d disappeared, did I really have the energy to do it all again?

No, probably not.

But there was clearly still a spark of something as I carried on reading, intending to find out how severe the loss was. And what did I discover? Well, it turns out the edits I’d made were there – just not where I’d expected them. They came further along in the story, and I hadn’t even remembered (hence my recommendation above to check the facts before you overreact).

It was a slightly odd sensation to realise that this manuscript that I’ve spent many, many, many hours working on could appear so new and unfamiliar to me. And that wasn’t just the ‘missing’ edits I’d made, there were many sections of the novel that I read with no memory of writing them. A lot of it I did remember, but for those brief sections, words, or phrases that I didn’t, it was genuinely like reading someone else’s story, and I enjoyed it. I liked being surprised by my own writing, and having a few moments of ‘oh, that’s kind of cool.’

To say I very rarely think that positively about anything I write is an understatement, and it felt nice to have some reassurance, from my own brain for once, that it wasn’t all horrible or terrible.

And that wouldn’t have happened without the break. Sure, there’s part of me that wishes I’d cracked on and started this round of edits ages ago, but I don’t know if I’d have had the emotional distance to be able to appreciate it in the same way I am right now. And without that inner validation, I definitely don’t think I’d have kept plugging away. Not immediately at least.

How long this positivity last is anyone’s guess, but right now I am actually enjoying working on the edits, and part of that is definitely because I am enjoying reading the novel itself. I’m confident that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t taken a break.

So, I guess my unsolicited opinion for anyone berating themselves for ‘procrastination’ or who’s struggling to keep going, is that breaks can be a good thing. Sometimes they result in a new perspective that you wouldn’t get otherwise. So give yourself a break, and take a break from writing if you need one – you’re a writer, so odds are you will come back to it. It’s an obsession most of us simply can’t turn off., no matter how busy life gets, how downtrodden we feel, or how long a break we take.

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