Today is my first day back at work after a week's vacation. I always love to take a break from the day job, but I also mostly took a break from writing during my vacation as well. I say mostly because I did take the print out of the current manuscript I'm revising and worked on a few chapters while sitting in airports (I had a three hour layover on the way back so I needed something to do!). But aside from that, I didn't write at all. I didn't write while I was actually on vacation, I didn't write when I got back. I've thought about the book a little, but not constantly aside from the couple hours I worked on those chapters. Instead, I visited with my family who live 700 miles away. I went swimming and shopping and out to eat and then was lazy and watched a lot of TV and finished a book I was reading.
And you know what? It was great! I've written stories since I was a kid and I can't imagine ever not writing, but I also enjoy taking a break from it.
I see writers moan all the time on forums and blogs about how they haven't written anything in days or weeks and they ask what is wrong with them? You know what's wrong? NOTHING. You need a break. Writing is hard work on your brain and creativity. It has a way of consuming almost every thought when you're deep into a project. Just as you need a break from school or any other kind of job to clear your head and relax, you also need a break from writing every now and then.
Sometimes my breaks are short. A day or a week or two. Sometimes I go a month or longer without writing. It just depends on how long it takes me to clear my head. When I start imagining scenes or feel the itch to visit my characters again, I know I've had a long enough break and will dive right back into the work.
So if you find yourself struggling with a project or you have zero motivation to write, do something good for yourself and step away. Take a vacation from writing, even if you're not really taking an actual vacation from everything else. Do other things for a little while. Read. Watch movies. Work on other hobbies. Or take an actual vacation and go somewhere for a few days. Let your brain relax, let your creativity build up inside you again. If you really love writing, you won't stay away from it forever. And when you do come back, you'll be full of new ideas and might even have the perfect breakthrough for a story problem you've been struggling with. Don't feel bad about not writing. Everyone needs a break!