It’s been more than a week since the new year began, and I am only now beginning to write publicly again. I’ve continued journaling of course, recording the pivotal events that marked the end of 2013, as well as the calm and peace that signified the beginning of a new year for me and my family. But I took a few day’s break from journaling as well during the first week of 2014.
I know that taking a respite from writing is not a popular concept in the west. But in the eastern part of the world, where I live, taking regular breaks from life as we know it is an essential part of growth.
In the western contemplative tradition, a break or a pause is referred to as statio. Statio is a period of rest, where one does nothing, when one allows the ebb and flow of life to continue without effort. In the east, pausing is not only normal, it is necessary. Hindus note that we pause after an exhale, just before another inhalation. This is called the expiratory pause, a reflexive activity of the body that is essential for health and vitality.
As writers, we are well-advised to write everyday, to exercise our literary muscles daily without fail. When we can’t write, when our muse refuses to show up, we call it writer’s block. As a journalist from the Philippines, and as a long time journal writer, I never believed in the concept of the writer’s block. When the muse isn’t there, instead of struggling, I move away from pen and paper or the computer and do what ever I feel like doing. But I continue to think like a writer and take notes with my mind and write on the fabric of my soul.
Every time I take a break from writing, I bounce back – always – with more enthusiasm and a flow of ideas about my writing life. Apparently I am not alone in believing that self-induced writer’s block is beneficial to the writing life. Some bloggers and writers have written about the benefits of taking a few days off from writing, citing the renewed vigor one experiences after taking a break from writing and the spontaneous flow of new ideas after a long respite from writing; explaining why it’s useless to pressure yourself to write when you can’t, and offering five reasons why we should take breaks from our writing regimen.
In an article about why writers and artists should slow down, Christian McEwen wrote, “When people are asked where they get their best ideas, they answer, ‘In the shower.’ ‘On vacation.’ ‘Doing nothing.’ They begin, in other words, by simply being.”
Although I don’t write new year’s resolutions, if I were to do it now, I would certainly include giving myself regular writing breaks in the list.
As we begin another year of writing and blogging, here’s hoping you will include regular writing breaks in your writing schedules.
Writers so often hear the advice that there’s nothing like putting your butt in the chair day after day in order to get something done. And that’s true, but it’s not the ONLY truth. The other truth is that creative work requires periods of rest, time during which all those things that simmer beneath the surface can percolate and bubble and burst or ripen. Rest is a necessary part of the creative process, and one we too seldom grant ourselves.