Skip to main content

Keeping the Writing Faith: How to STOP Writing

Jennifer Haupt discusses why it's sometimes beneficial to stop writing—that is, to step back from your work-in-progress in order to maintain your motivation and find a more productive path forward.

The following article is the third in a five-part series of articles by Jennifer Haupt. In this installment, she discusses why it's sometimes beneficial to stop writing—that is, to step back from your work-in-progress in order to maintain your motivation and find a more productive path forward.

Image placeholder title

We all know that crossing the finish line of a manuscript requires marathon of writing, page after page, every day. Sometimes, though, the best thing you can do for your WIP is to put it aside for a few days, weeks, or even years. I learned this the hard way during the 11 years I worked on my debut novel, In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills.

There were stretches when I dreaded waking up to my characters and their stalled stories. I sat at my desk, stared at my computer, and tortured myself with self-doubt and resistance. I wrote entire chapters, knowing that the overall structure of the novel wasn’t holding together. None of this was good for my soul or my book. Here are six strategies for how and when to stop writing that may save you time and misery.

Give yourself permission to take a break.

The biggest lesson I learned is that creativity simply can’t be forced. It seemed that the harder I tried, the more I grew to despise my WIP. There was a point when I was so discouraged and zapped of energy that I put my manuscript in a drawer for two years. Since then, I’ve made a habit of taking short breaks—before I totally burn out.

Put aside your WIP with love.

I’m a firm believer that intent does matter. When faced with a sticky plot twist, I may print out 50 pages, wrap them in yellow tissue paper, and then place them in a drawer for a few days. This act of compassion for myself and my art feels a lot better than beating myself up for being stuck.

Keeping the Writing Faith: Daily Writing Habits of Four Successful Authors

Replenish your creative energy.

In retrospect, my single-minded devotion to my novel for six years probably led to the need to completely put it aside for two years. I developed a penchant for psychedelic coloring books, treating myself to colored pencils and magic markers, learning to draw outside the lines. I cultivated a shade garden in a spot where I had always assumed nothing would grow. I changed up my exercise routine to include more time in nature and less time at the gym. All of these activities provided nourishment for the novel resting in a drawer.

Image placeholder title

Keep writing—and learning.

There comes a time when it’s futile to carve up a manuscript for the fourth or sixth time. One of the most productive things I did during the two-year hiatus from my WIP was writing a draft of an entirely new novel. I invested in workshops and hired a consulting editor when I could afford to. I read and underlined passages I wished I had written in other novels, and then collected them in a notebook as examples I could mimic with my own words. I traded pages with a few trusted friends. In short: I upped my skills and then I was ready to tackle my first novel again. The best part: Now that In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills has been published, I have a second novel in the works!

Put a clock on your time-out.

When I set aside my WIP the first few times, I worried that I would abandon it for good. It’s helpful for me to set a begin-again date even if it seems arbitrary, simply for peace of mind.

The truth is, your gut will tell you when to take a time-out from your WIP, and when to pick it up again. It’s all about making a commitment—and keeping the writing faith.

Online Course: Creativity & Expression

Image placeholder title
Katrina Leno: On Writing Around an Idea

Katrina Leno: On Writing Around an Idea

Critically acclaimed novelist Katrina Leno discusses the process of bringing her childhood memories to magical life in her new young adult novel, Sometime in Summer.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: A New Podcast Episode, "Your Story" Prompt, and More!

This week, we're excited to announce our latest episode of "Writer's Digest Presents," the new "Your Story" prompt, and more!

Writer's Digest Best Live Streams, Podcasts, and YouTube Channels 2022

Writer's Digest Best Live Streams, Podcasts, and YouTube Channels 2022

Here are the top live streams, podcasts, and YouTube channels as identified in the 24th Annual 101 Best Websites from the May/June 2022 issue of Writer's Digest.

What Is Fan Fiction in Writing?

What Is Fan Fiction in Writing?

You might have heard the term, especially if you’re in online fandoms, but what exactly is fan fiction? Managing Editor Moriah Richard explains.

5 Ways To Use Short Stories To Grow as a Writer

5 Ways To Use Short Stories To Grow as a Writer

Short story writing can be a gateway to writing your novel—but they’re also fun and worthy stories in their own right. Here, author Dallas Woodburn shares 5 ways to use short stories to grow as a writer.

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Having an Online Presence

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Having an Online Presence

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is not having an online presence.

Shirlene Obuobi: On Writing From Experience

Shirlene Obuobi: On Writing From Experience

Physician, cartoonist, and author Shirlene Obuobi discusses the writerly advice that led to writing her new coming-of-age novel, On Rotation.

WD Poetic Form Challenge

WD Poetic Form Challenge: Kimo Winner

Learn the winner and Top 10 list for the Writer’s Digest Poetic Form Challenge for the kimo.

8 Things Writers Should Know About Tattoos

8 Things Writers Should Know About Tattoos

Tattoos and their artists can reveal interesting details about your characters and offer historical context. Here, author June Gervais shares 8 things writers should know about tattoos.