Linda Nagata has a great post on quitting writing, from the perspective of someone who’s done it and come back. Go ahead and read it now. I’ll wait.
The thing about this, the reason I want to signal boost, is that there is so much of writer culture that is pushing uphill. It’s pushing against a world in which not writing is the default, and it’s trying to make space for an unusual activity. And this is good. More room for the creative and unusual! Hurrah!
But…not writing should be the default, because not everybody writes. Not everybody wants to write. (Not everybody wants to have written, either.) And among the people who want to, I would hope that they also want other things. Friends, family…hobbies…other jobs, other pursuits…time to read, even. You’re allowed to change the priority order of the things you want, as your life goes on, so that something that was previously secondary becomes primary or vice versa. Or further down the list than that.
You are allowed to love to do more than one thing. You are allowed to be there for more than one person. And “yourself” is one of the people you may need to be there for, and that takes all different shapes.
This may sound like it’s the exact opposite of the advice I give college students, which is to make room for the things that are your priorities now rather than pushing them off until some magical day when you will have more time, because that magical day will never come. But I think the key word there is “magical.” When there is something you want to do that you are not doing now, the question is: what will be different later? And sometimes there is a clear, factual answer to that question. Sometimes what will be different later is that forming a habit of working out in a gym would require purchasing a gym membership when you’re no longer getting one for free in college–for some people that’s motivating and for some quite the opposite. But it is a difference. For some people, college is requiring them to write papers, and that’s taking all their writing energy, whereas they intend to get a job that is not writing-heavy. For others, college has more room to put writing their “own” stuff in their schedule than grad school or work life will, so it’s a great time to start incorporating writing into their lives automatically. People vary. Situations vary. This is not a bug, it’s a feature.
And sometimes if you say to yourself, “What will be different later, that I will have more time for writing?”, the honest answer is, “I will not have a newborn.” Or, “I will not be caring for someone in the final stages of terminal cancer.” Or, “I will not be in the middle of a move across multiple time zones.” Or even, “I will have had a chance to rest.” These can all be honest, important answers. If you find that you always have an honest, important answer for, “Why not write?”, the answer may be that writing is not a priority for you. That is okay. Now may not be your time. We all have some times when we are not up for writing. Some people find that they last eight hours and end with the alarm clock; some find that they last a decade. But the person whose time for not-writing is “only when not conscious” if not morally superior to the person whose time for not-writing is “when my kid is tiny” or “while I am getting this degree in a field I like.” Due to the vicissitudes of life, they’re not even guaranteed to be a better writer–on nearly any axis.
The more writers I get to know, the more writers I value as whole people. The more I want to encourage self-care. For some people, that absolutely means “carve out x hours of writing time a week; I am better for it.” For others that means, “not this year, perhaps next year.” Again: variety is not a bug, it’s a feature.