Alright, in my last post, "Little Vacations," I talked about how stepping away from something can be a good way to help you sort it out. If this “something” is your writing—be it a book, short story, poem, etc.—then walking away from it for a time can help you see it in new ways when you return. I haven’t known a single writer who hasn’t suffered from writer’s block at least once in their lives. I’m no exception. I was once blocked for a whole year.

Yes, that happened.

Due to circumstances that were occurring at that time as well as my distaste for where my novel was going, my depression mixed with my anxiety and anger and created a unique cocktail that put my imagination to sleep. I couldn’t even find the drive to read, much less write or draw. In fact, in the case of my art, I’d been on a dry streak for almost three years by then, meaning I went from drawing every day to drawing a few times each year. After a friend of mine passed away due to illness, I just couldn’t find it in me to draw much. What made this period of writer’s block and artist’s block (and, let’s face it, reader’s block) last even longer was me trying to force my creativity to return. For me, I may as well have been chasing my own tail.

See, my creativity wasn’t gone; it was just out of my reach. Trying to grab it only exhausted me and made everything feel hopeless, whereas if I had just found stillness in my soul and mind, I’d have realized my creativity was still there because it’s a part of me. Rather than treating it like something separate from me, I needed to accept that it hadn’t gone away and, just like any muscle I use too much, let it rest until I was ready to use it again.

When I stopped trying to force it, when I stepped away and started soul searching, I worked myself out of the slump I was in. I started finding other ways to occupy my time. Gradually, the urge to read returned to me. As I read books and started thinking about things I would have done differently in each story and tropes I wanted to see in literature, the urge to write was sparked again. My imagination and the drive to express it were rekindled. As I started writing, I started thinking about all the things I wanted to visualize better. Words weren’t enough—I wanted to create the images I saw in my head on paper (or on my graphics tablet). Thus, my urge to create art also returned to me.

On a smaller scale, this tactic has helped me finish and better edit certain works. For example, I was struggling with this one poem a while ago. I had a general sense of the emotions I wanted to portray, but I was having a hard time getting them down. So, I stepped back from it. I worked on other projects, like writing a story. The truth was, I didn’t really want to write the poem. I didn’t realize that until I started doing other things.

When you don’t want to do something, you aren’t going to do it well, and it’s going to feel like a chore to complete it. When I found inspiration in the memories a movie called up and the emotions they evoked, I went back to the poem and finished what I consider to be the first draft of it. From there, I edited it and refined it until I was happy with it. There were also times when I had to resolve certain situations in my personal life before I could focus on my art and writing.

Leaving a project for a time may help you look at it with a fresher take when you return, and if you return to it and find that you still aren’t interested in it, save it for another time. You might look back on it sometime in the future and find yourself inspired to finish it, or maybe it’ll spark an idea to use for a different project. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve deleted something and wound up looking for it in the future because I wanted to revisit it to help me with new endeavors. Now I try to save everything I write (within reason).

I hope something I wrote helps you some way, whether it’s helping you realize that you need a break or that you want to focus on something else for a time. Taking a break isn’t quitting, it’s giving yourself the time and distance away from what’s causing you problems so that you can renew yourself and regain productivity. Do you have a project you’re struggling with right now? I know I do. If you want to talk about it, or if you've overcome similar problems in the past and have some wisdom to share with others, feel free to post some comments below.