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By Johannes Helmold

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When I was starting my path as a writer about five years ago, I was full of naive ideas about this craft. I believed in permanent inspiration and other romantic things. Today, I still cannot call myself a professional writer—I am not living on my writing—I also cannot say I am an extremely-skilled one; on the contrary, I am still learning. However, many of my former illusions have vanished.

One such illusion was the belief that a writer is someone who writes all the time. I guess there is no universal pattern that all writers should follow, but still I had this idea that if I consider myself a writer, I should be doing nothing else but writing whenever I have free time. Ideally, I should be writing all my time, but since I failed in managing to live on writing, I should at least dedicate all my free time to it—that’s what I thought. Now I understand it is hardly possible—at least unless you are a pro, or unless you are a writing fanatic (well, a lot of famous writers were both, but that’s not the point). We need to make pauses in writing—sometimes long ones. Why? I’ve figured out several reasons for myself.

  1. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” I love this phrase (and not just because it’s a self-justification for being lazy). When you only write, it is easy to get lost in your own writing. A painter needs to step aside from his or her painting every now and then to glance at the entire canvas, otherwise he or she will see only strokes and fragments. I felt the same when writing my first novel: I lost the vision of the whole picture and dug into details.
  2. Writing all the time can become boring or can lead to burning out, so taking breaks can be therapeutic.
  3. It is debilitating to adhere to one sort of activity—at least for me. I like to hang out with my friends, watch movies with my wife, attend classes at a language school, travel often, and play video games from time to time (and besides, I’ve got my main job). All this takes time and cognitive resources. So, instead of throwing myself into writing, I prefer to plan “writing sessions” for myself—days when I will be working on my novel, or short story, or whatever. It does not mean that I cannot generate ideas for new stories on my “non-writing” days though. Oh, and yeah, planning helps—inspiration and “waiting for an accurate creative moment” is another illusion about writing that I’ve got rid of.

All this sounds reasonable, but sometimes I still feel guilty or frustrated for not writing 24/7. However, I also know that being on a writing streak has its downside: one day, you will stumble upon writer’s block, and this is much worse than a couple of days without writing a single word.

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