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When to take a break

When to Take a Break

career mindset Oct 28, 2023

Ah, the age-old question: how do you figure out when to take a break?

As a serial-burnout-victim, I have struggled with this very question, immensely. Truthfully, I am someone who takes on way too much all at once, and then gets burnt out, and then dials back on some of my commitments, only to over-commit myself again.

I have always had problems with this, and it has always affected my writing. When I get burnt out, I inevitably write less often and less enthusiastically, because of course I’m already tired, and stressed, and sometimes grumpy. 

Mental health is no joke, and as someone with a litany of experience, I’ve finally begun to take it seriously. For me, this means prioritising my health over my commitments, and reaching out for help when I need it.

ALSO: Love, Hate, and Inner Sabotage

But before I got to this point, how did I figure out when I needed a break?

To be honest, I often didn’t, and everything would continue to build and build until I finally reached a breaking point. However, on occasion, I was able to tune in to my own thoughts and emotions, and determine when I needed to recalibrate. Often these realisations would come when I was either talking with a loved one, or journalling, or when I had observed for myself that I was no longer doing anything that I enjoyed with my life, because I wasn’t able to make the time or reserve the energy for it.

As writers, this can be even more challenging, because you are your own boss. No one is telling you when to write, how much to write, what to write, etc. Unless of course you have a contract with a publisher and deadlines to meet, in which case RIP and congratulations! 



But seriously, even then, usually no one is breathing down your neck to micromanage everything. This freedom is a blessing and a curse, because on the one hand, you can determine when you have the time to write, and fit it in according to your schedule. On the flip side, if you’re already busy, then finding the time to write can be a real challenge, and can cut into your personal time, which can lead to more burnout, and so on.

Well, unfortunately, we’re not always able to relax when we need it, but with some self-care practices, the results of this can be somewhat mitigated. A slight (related) tangent: one of my professors in university had us read the introduction to a book, How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell, and I’d like to share a couple of quotes with you.

When articulating her “thesis” for the book, Odell writes:

“A simple refusal motivates my argument: refusal to believe that the present time and place, and the people who are here with us, are somehow not enough.”

This quote struck a chord with me, because I share her refusal. It has always been confusing and infuriating to me that as a society we seem to value productivity over healing, and profit over people. In my personal belief, every single person is already enough, simply by existing, and Odell’s argument that life is “more than an instrument” for optimization in a capitalist society, gave me hope, which I hope I can pass on to you. I highly recommend this book, and I think it raises important questions about the attention economy and what we can do about it.

Now, back to self-care.

Obviously not everyone has the privilege to be able to partake in or access self-care. As someone with multiple jobs and multiple university classes and multiple interests to balance, I get it. But for those of us who do, I highly recommend taking the time to create your own little rituals, whether that’s finding a somewhat-consistent time to read, or to light a candle and take a bath, or to make yourself a nice meal, do something (ideally every day) that brings you some sense of fulfilment. And if you, like me, struggle to carve out even the tiniest bit of time for yourself, just know that it won’t be like this forever. You’ll get through this, and in the meantime, remember it’s ok to ask for help.

Sometimes, we need to prioritise ourselves over our art, and sometimes prioritising our art is prioritising ourselves. I know that for me, I feel best when I’ve practised some sort of art during my day. Be that writing, drawing, music, or crocheting. Many people find writing routines can be helpful to create a consistent writing practice. Some people like writing on the go instead. Whatever you choose, you are valid, and any writing is worthwhile writing.


So, how do you know when you need a break? 

  1. When you can’t find the time to devote to anything fulfilling in your life anymore.
  2. When you’re feeling some version of stressed/depressed/exhausted.
  3. When you’ve spoken to a loved one, and/or done some personal introspection, and realised that you’re nearing a breaking point.


And if you (like me) struggle to pay attention to your own needs before you hit a wall, hopefully some of the tips I’ve shared here will help. Also, if you’re just needing some guidance/direction for your writing, I highly recommend The Plottery’s FREE novel plan!


Happy writing folks, and take care of yourselves!



Jules ❤️


Written for The Plottery

Jules (she/they) is a queer, nonbinary, neurodivergent writer and aspirant book dragon who has been in love with writing since they were six years old. They are just as likely to wax poetic about philosophy or comedy specials, and they dream of someday escaping to a cabin where they can entertain their imagination, surround themselves with books, and hopefully gaze dramatically into the rain from a cosy window seat. They have their own blog chaoticallyinclined namely @jules.m.sherwood on Instagram. 



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