Writing: Time for a break?

So we’re not aspiring writers, we’re writers, so we write whenever we can. If we have a full time job we get up early or write into the night. If we stay at home with children we write when they are napping or happily occupied or in preschool or gone to bed. If we go out to work and have children we write from under a six foot pile of laundry with the dust bunnies for company, and sometimes we’re so tired we don’t know if anything is making sense.

Then life happens, other stuff, financial worries, work commitments, sick or anxious children, ailing relatives, a death or a report of one, something close to the bone or joyous events that need our time and attention.  These things affect both men and women but I think women try to hold everything in their heads all at once and may find it harder to switch between roles. Sometimes there are just too many directions. Is this why there are more major male novelists? It’s a controversial thing to ask and I don’t want to ruffle any feathers. Are novels just too big a thing to keep in your head alongside all the micromanagement of life that women do? Does it take longer for women to reach the 10,000 hours of practise it takes to become an expert? Do women on average ultimately write less novels or have less ‘head space’ in which to incubate their novels.

Are there times, in particular for juggling women, but for all writers when you need to stop writing? Are there times when you are going through the motions and producing word count but your work lacks direction, depth, layering, association, all the things that can make a good novel or story great? Are there times when you need to just live, or just live and keep your mind open as the writing circulates in your subconscious?

Writing, do we need a break from each other sometimes? From the treadmill word count achievement, from the blogs and the flash fiction and the competitions and the myriad online publication options. Do we need to just sit somewhere, stare at the sun on the grass or into the fire to the bright flicker of flame and the roaring red core or just visit our relations, talk to our children, catch up on our day job, organise the laundry, have tea, go to bed early, read?

I read a wonderful post lately from Jennifer New on Studio Mothers, who tells us that the ideas we have in the thick of life and cannot follow up just then are not really lost, they feed into other things or we find ideas later that are just as good as the earlier ones. In my mother writer series I will be talking to author Jane Rusbridge. In her interview next Sunday she will be telling us about the long process over several years of writing her acclaimed novel Devil’s Music in tandem with her busy life situation. And prolific author Nicola Morgan has explored whether we can still write during difficult and challenging times in our lives. Indeed we all read of people who’s writing keeps them going through hard times. We all take solace from expression or from losing ourselves in something we love but is there a time to pause?

What do you think? Are there occasions when our life needs our absolute focus or when we need to step back and stop producing so that our writing ideas catch up with us? When we need to rid ourselves of the opposing clamour from the many requirements of our lives? Or do you just keep doggedly on, putting down even a few words every day. Have any of you taken an extended break and how did it affect your writing work, for the better or worse? If you take a long break will you lose momentum or gain perspective?

My feeling is that there is a time for pause. So often it is the down times when I only have a pen and a notebook and no plans that my best stories unfurl. So we may take a break, we may go off for a while and live our lives but the writing will always find us.