Is It Time to Step Away from Your Work?

Feeling burnt out? Have a bad case of writer's block? Maybe it's time to step away from your work for a while. How do you know when you need creative rest, though, and when to apply butt to chair...? | creativity | productivity | writing advice



Cole Smith Writes | creativity | productivity | writingby Cole Smith



“Apply butt to chair.” That’s the ubiquitous advice. Write, no matter what. Even when you don’t feel like it, WRITE. But how do you know when it’s really time to step away from your work for a little while, and when you’re just making excuses to your internal editor?



True burnout goes deeper than fatigue or writer’s block. When, instead of writing yourself out of a funk, you write yourself deeper into one, you know it’s time to step away.


“How am I supposed to get any work done?” wrote a blogger in one of my closed Facebook groups. Then she went on to describe several truly terrible situations she and her family were navigating. There are seasons of life when self-care has to take priority over goals. Don’t give up on your work; just give it grace. Several members of my group were quick to support our friend. And maybe that’s what she was really asking, the underlying question beneath the surface: “Is it okay if I stop for a bit?”



Burnout is bad for creativity.

The Muse is real! Ancient creatives used the archetype to conceptualize the spirit of creativity. If you try to push through burnout with brute force, you’ll drive away your Muse and your subconscious won’t burp up those wonderful ideas any more. So how do you woo back your Muse?



Rest is good for creativity.

Remember good ol’ Archimedes? According to legend, the Principle of Buoyancy came to him in the bath, and he was so overjoyed he streaked through town to tell everyone. Okay, so that story’s equal parts myth and fact, but it’s still very true, isn’t it? Suffering burnout, it was only when Archy settled down for a little relaxation that inspiration struck him like a suckerpunch. (And if streaking through town isn’t a sign of a burnout-addled brain, I don’t know what is…)



A full cup = greater impact!

The old adage, “You can’t pour from an empty cup,” is true. If you’re feeling starved in any area of your creative life, the inspiration that flows to you only serves to fill you up. But when you’re fulfilled, confident, and rested, you’re able to overflow into others. Your readers, accountabilibuddies, and community will benefit from what you’re able to generously pass on. And that’s no small thing–the world needs encouragement, inspiration, and joy.



Schedule a personal retreat, a day of creative rest, or just get away from your WIP for a while. It’s not selfish or weak, but necessary! If you need permission to step away, you have it. Your work is too important not to take care of yourself 🙂



Cole Smith is a writer, teacher, and mountain biker in West Virginia. She enjoys good coffee and great stories. She shares inspiration, encouragement, and tips for writers and other creatives at Her cozy mystery, Waiting for Jacob, is available here.


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Waiting forJacob, a Christian cozy mystery







3 Ways to Welcome Creativity Into Spring

Cole SmithThis post by Cole Smith


Looking for a few quick, easy ways to shake up your routine in the new month? Are you feeling creative cabin fever after weeks of winter? Since I work in a school, my patterns are cyclical: summer is sweet freedom, fall means migrating back to classes, winter is rest and self-care, and spring is time for awakening and energizing!

As the trees form buds and the green leaves of the lilies push out of the soil, I find this time of year to be perfect for shaking off winter’s slower pace. I like to find new inspiration. Check out these three ideas to freshen up your work and super-charge your creativity for spring:


3 Ways to Welcome Creativity Into Spring


Take a one-day retreat.

Even the busiest among us can find time to take a day to dream, plan, and create. A little preparation can ensure you’ve got an entire Saturday to yourself!



Get outside into nature.

Many recent studies have proven what we all instinctively understand: time spent in nature has a restorative quality. Immerse yourself in the great out-of-doors and reap the rewards.


Host a luncheon for other cooped-up Creatives.

If you’re feeling cabin fever, your fellow Creatives feel it, too. Opt for easy and have your pals over for a laid-back snack buffet. Or just meet at a local restaurant, preferably one with lots of windows 🙂



We spend so much time indoors, it can feel like an endless stretch from New Year’s to spring. Energize your creative routine by treating yourself to one or more of these fun activities. You’ve been working hard—now take a step back, a deep breath, and look at how far you’ve come. What’s your favorite way to revitalize your work routine?


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Cole Smith is a writer, teacher, and mountain biker in West Virginia. She enjoys good coffee and great stories. She shares inspiration, encouragement, and tips for creative overwhelm at Her cozy mystery, Waiting for Jacob, will be released on March 20.




A Time for All Seasons

Gayle_Cheyenne bookstoreby Gayle M. Irwin

I’m coming off an extremely busy month writing-wise, and none were for myself (unless you count financially ). Ironically, all the articles were due the same day: February 22. I completed seven short stories which I submitted to Prairie Rose Publications for consideration in their upcoming pet anthology, “Pawprints on my Heart.” I wrote three articles for Our Town Casper (I usually write 3 or 4 each month for this regular “gig”), and I wrote three articles for a publication for which I was sought called Advancement – it’s a newsletter/magazine for the Cheyenne (Wyoming) Medical Center Foundation. This was a new venture for me, brought my way from the same publishing company of WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric News) and Crossroads, both of which I’ve written for during the past three to four years. Persistence and reliability can pay off!

In between all these endeavors, I still had my “day job,” working part-time at a medical clinic (and going through implementing a new electronic medical records program) and speaking in schools (I had six different school visits this month). I also interviewed and wrote more Vietnam veterans stories for the Casper Star Tribune/Casper Journal. Additionally, as you all likely know, my Cody dog crossed the rainbow bridge in latter January, so I was (still am, I guess) grieving. And, I took an extended weekend to visit my parents in Montana, at which I finally finished the first draft of my children’s dog rescue book, titled Jasmine’s Journey: The Story of a Rescue Dog.

Jasmine Journey_Bookcover DraftI’ve had a busy season personally just as the winter season seems to be winding down in our neck of the woods. This weekend we are to see temperatures rise to nearly 60 degrees. Buds are appearing on the apple tree out back, sprigs of green grass are breaking through the hardened earth-clay, and the tundra of snow and ice that hadn’t faded since December has now vanished (except the snow on the nearby mountain ranges, but that’s okay – the snow needs to stay in the higher elevations for a few more months). As nature awakens from its sleepy dormancy, I’m in need of some physical, and mental, dormancy.

I am tired, and I need to rest. So, this weekend I’ll be at my friends’ ranch north of Casper that I talked about in an earlier post. Yes, I’ll likely do some writing as I did in January, especially in Jasmine’s Journey and another children’s story I’m working on called Bobcat Goes to School (I’m hoping this will be published in the children’s section of our local paper in the fall, just as two of my other children’s stories were featured last fall and winter). But, one of the big goals of going to the ranch this time is not a writing retreat, it’s a resting retreat (and time to visit with my dear friends!). My hubby is supposed to join me, although he has a work-related project on Saturday afternoon, so we’ll drive to our friends’ ranch separately. Our dog Mary will be there as well – our friends enjoy dogs even though they don’t have one of their own (they have several cats, mostly barn/rodent-catching cats), but one that’s indoor-outdoor – we’ll see how the cat and Mary do when they meet! I know what she’ll do when she sees the llamas — WOOF, WOOF!

Llamas in morn_Kaycee

I’m looking forward to the rest retreat, to being out in nature around the ranch (maybe the sandhill cranes will make an early-season appearance!), and to sharing time with people I love and respect. Preparing for the new season, both in nature (spring) and in my life (more new opportunities are forthcoming – I’ll reveal those in my next post). So, as this post goes live, I’ll be resting/retreating at a lovely ranch along the Powder River of central Wyoming. I hope all of you are enjoying a delightful weekend, and that this season, and those to come, in your life will be filled with all good things!

Take a deep breath, my friends – there is a time for all seasons, busy ones, challenging ones, joyful and restful ones. What season are you in now and what season are you expecting in the near future?

Gayle & Mary outside

Gayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, Cody’s Cabin: Life in a Pine Forest, and two dog devotion books: Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God and Devotions for Dog Lovers 2: Sage Advice. She is also a contributing writer to five editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. She has a passion for pets and volunteers for and donates a percentage of her writing revenues to several animal welfare organizations. Her speaking engagements include presentations for children and adults about the lessons people can learn from pets. Visit her website at

SageBigAdventureFront-small   Sage Finds Friends_front cover   Cody Cabin_New Book CoverImage   Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final   Dog Devotions 2 Book Cover Sage Advice Cover   Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014

A Guided Walk by Abbie

Abbie J. Taylor 010This post by Abbie Johnson Taylor

I’m strolling down a well-marked foot path. No one else is around. I feel the sun on my face and shoulders. Occasionally, I pass trees that provide shade. The path gradually becomes marred by rocks and fallen branches. I keep plodding along, feeling a sense of peace despite the undefined trail. Birds sing in nearby trees, making me feel even calmer.

I finally reach the edge of the wood and glimpse a vast meadow with green grass and a few trees dotting the edge. A stream runs through the middle, and I hear its gentle babble and the wind whispering through the trees. I wander farther into the meadow and discover a picnic basket on the ground near the creek. Maybe a family was eating here and wandered off to find an outhouse or sheltered place to do their business. I look around, watch, wait, but no one appears.

The smell of fried chicken wafts from the partly opened lid. I open it the rest of the way and find two drumsticks, a small deli container of macaroni salad, a can of Dr. Pepper, still cold, and a zip lock bag containing a dill pickle, black olives, and cherry tomatoes. I look around to be sure no one else is approaching. All is silent except for the twittering birds, rustling wind, and babbling stream.

I sit on the ground next to the basket and dig in, thinking the food was left there just for me. I savor the flavors and wash everything down with the Dr. Pepper. I then lie back on the grass and bask in the sun’s radiance. After a brief nap, I wake to find the picnic basket with the garbage gone. Whoever brought the basket must have come while I was sleeping and collected the trash.


The above was inspired by a guided imagery exercise in which I participated at a retreat I attended recently. Now, it’s your turn. Close your eyes and picture yourself walking down a path in the woods. What do you see, hear, smell? As you walk, the path becomes more treacherous, but you feel calm. Pay attention to the atmosphere around you. At the end of the path is a vast meadow. What does it look like? As you wander into the meadow, you find a picnic basket containing your favorite foods. What’s in the basket? What do you do next? Write about it. Please feel free to share in the comment field below.


Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of:

Front Book Cover - We Shall OvercomeWe Shall Overcome


Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

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