With my first kid, it happened without me wanting it to.
With my second, it was planned.
I’m not talking about the pregnancies. I’m talking about writing.
Or, more accurately, not writing.
I stopped writing from after each kid was born for about a year. With my first kid, I did not plan to stop. It also felt like more of a failure.
Looking back, it was anything but.
First: the problems with taking an extended break from writing—or from anything you love.
- Art is easiest when you’re consistent.
- If making art keeps you sane, what do you do when you set it aside?
Here’s the reality of having a baby:
- With babies, nothing is consistent except inconsistency.
- What keeps everyone saner than art? Sleep.
There are parents who manage to write through upheaval with flying colors. Women who birth kids and manage to continue running forward, pen in hand.
I, on the other hand, would probably trip and stab someone with the sharp end.
In my writing group, a few of the women had second babies before me. One of them, Diana, spoke out loud her plan to take a year off writing with her second. I was struck by her sanity, her bravery, her wisdom. And when it was my turn, I followed her lead.
Choosing rest, instead of being afraid of it, helped me have the gumption to begin again when I was ready.
Here’s why choosing an extended rest was right for me:
- Physically and mentally, the first year of babyhood takes a huge toll on me. (ie: sleep). Writing out of such a deep deficit would have done damage to my soul. I had so little to give, and so much giving to do. Demanding yet something else of myself could have sent me over the edge.
- A planned break, with a defined start and end, took less of a toll than a simmering sense of failing. I gave myself permission to take the break. And I started writing again when it was over.
- Creativity always requires paying attention to your self, your body, your thoughts. How else to be honest in your work? How else to have the energy? Taking that rest kept me aware of my body’s limitations as well as its power.
- I affirmed that I am someone (important, okay) when I’m not being a “writer”. That, however, didn’t make me forget that I’m also someone (important, okay) when I’m not being a “mother”. I am me, regardless of what life stage I’m in.
- Really working to get better at something changes you. And when I added to my family, I had to learn how to be creative all over again. I had to re-learn my craft, my motivation, and how to find time to do my work. I gave myself time to learn how to mother a second child before I started another steep learning curve.
Have you ever taken a break–planned or unplanned–from your creative pursuits? Was it life-giving, or anxiety making?