Permission to NOT Keep Going by Maryanne Fantalis

Sometimes, we writers are even harder on ourselves than any reviewer or critic might be.

This month, while we are talking about perseverance, you're going to hear a lot of really good tips for how to keep writing when it seems impossible to do so. When someone you love dies. When you are seriously ill, or caring for someone who is. When you are struggling to put food on the table. Or when you're working so hard at the day job, you simply don't have the energy to think when you get home at night.

Or all of the above.

As great as it is to keep going, sometimes, you need to be kind to yourself.

For me, and maybe for you, when things get really bad, I take a break. I let myself off the hook. I don't write, and I don't beat myself up about it.

It's a dangerous downward spiral, too easy to tumble into: You tell yourself you should be writing and maybe you try, but you can't -- you're too burnt out, too tired, too overwrought, and the words just won't come -- or maybe you get a few down but they're terrible and you know it, and you just feel worse than when you started so the next day you don't even try; then the guilt of not writing piles on top of the stress or grief that's already crushing you and you start to believe you're a terrible person, a failure, a loser...

This is a recipe for depression, not healthy dealing with pain, loss, or stress.

If you find yourself trying but not successfully producing anything, if the writing is more stress in your life and no joy, just stop. Give yourself permission not to write for a while. And this is the key: give yourself permission. Make it a blessing to yourself. A relief. Take a week off and see how you feel. If you feel an uplift of spirit -- oh, thank goodness I don't have to stare at this screen and feel like a failure -- then you've done the right thing. If you feel sad, if you miss it -- you know, maybe I could just write a few lines... -- well, then you know what to do.

When your leg is broken, you stay off it for a while. You rest it. You heal.

When your life is broken, you need some time to heal. If writing helps you heal, that's so great. If not writing helps you heal, that's great too. No two people are the same. Do what works for you.


  1. "Do what works for YOU" (emphasis added): exactly!

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks! It's great to know this resonates with others -- I was little hesitant to write it.

  3. This is so true. I've been making a conscious effort to do more of this lately.

  4. I think it's hard for us to take a break, partly because Americans in particular are workaholics. When I was in college, I spent a summer in Spain and was amazed that Spaniards took a siesta in the middle of the afternoon; all the businesses closed down for several hours and people took long lunches. Everyone seemed so relaxed over there, as opposed to here in the U.S. where people usually skip vacations and eat lunch at their desks.


Post a Comment