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A Confident Writer Knows When to Breathe: Guest Post by Iain Broome

A confident writer knows when to breathe

As writers, the idea of ‘breathing space’ is likely to mean something different to each of us.

For me, breathing space is something we must give ourselves when we become too close, too attached to our writing for it to go any further.

See, when I’m struggling to find the words I try to remind myself that writing is a process. It’s a craft.

Yes, we all have those fantastic flashes of inspiration that illuminate our writing, but much of our time is spent screwing and unscrewing the nuts and bolts of our creations.

Sometimes, in our desire to perfect our work or meet our deadlines, we get lost and lose focus. We forget to breathe.

When the pressure’s on, it’s all well and good to get stuck in and write write write. But just as important, sometimes you also need to allow your writing the space it needs to flourish.

Don’t stifle your creativity by being stubborn. Be prepared to take a step back from your writing. Let it go from time to time.

How can I breathe and still be productive?

‘Letting go’ can mean a range of things. Some people think that time spent not writing is time wasted, or a sign of weakness. They believe that the only way to get anywhere is to keep on writing, no matter what.

But that’s simply not the case.

Breathe by szlea on Flickr

If you’re able to recognise the point at which you’ve become too close to your work, or when your writing would benefit from a little breathing space, you’re a stronger, more confident writer than the naysayers.

And just because you’ve decided to take some time out, it doesn’t mean you can’t make progress. There are lots of things that you can do that will benefit your writing, such as:

1. Give your work to someone else

This is the perfect time to make use of a writing partner or unsuspecting family member. If you can’t see the wood for the trees, ask someone that you trust to read your writing and see if they can offer some fresh perspective.

2.Work on or start another writing project

It’s healthy to have more than one project on the go at any given time, because it prevents your writing from getting stale. More importantly, it gives you the chance to reignite your spark elsewhere when you’ve become bogged down and in desperate need of air.

3. Take a holiday!

Ah, of course, the perfect way to find breathing space. However, a holiday doesn’t necessarily mean a fortnight in the Caribbean (or Sardinia!). It could be a weekend in the garden or a night out with your partner. Obviously, there’s a chance you’ll be secretly pondering over that pesky paragraph the entire time, but being away from the writing process completely can have a real energising effect when you return to it.

How do I know if I need breathing space?

It’s no doubt different for everyone, but I’d say it’s time to inhale when you feel like the quality of your writing is being affected by the time you put into it or your general state of mind.

In truth, only you know when it’s time to find some breathing space. The important thing to remember is that you’re not doing you or your writing a disservice by allowing yourself that time to breathe.

Time away from your writing, whether it’s five minutes of five months, gives you a chance to regroup and rethink. It helps you put your work in context and come back to it remotivated and with a fresh perspective.

And all those are good things. I’m sure of it.


Let me introduce you to Iain Broome.

Iain is fiction writer, blogger and professional copywriter. He writes and edits Write for Your Life, a blog that offers practical advice and productivity tips for writers.

He’s also just set up an independent directory of online writing resources, called Websites for writers.

Iain has been a regular and constructive commenter here and on other writing sites since jumping bursting into the blogosphere at the end of last year.  Thanks Iain - that’s the way to go :-)

Somehow or other he has escaped my normal editorial requirements for a photo… next time.

Photo Credit: Breathe by szlea on Flickr

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  1. Jan Scott says:

    This is a timely reminder. Many moons ago when I was doing my undergraduate degree I used to have up to five essays on the go at any one time, to the horror of my peers who worked through them one at a time. The reason it worked for me was that I could come fresh to my writing, several times a day sometimes. It didn’t frazzle my brain at all, though I’d been warned that it would. Rather, it gave me breathing space between sessions on any given subject and therefore the ability to see what I needed to do.
    Thank you :)

    Jan Scotts last blog post..sad

  2. Catherine Wentworth says:

    Hi Iain,

    What a timely post. I’m running into the ‘knowing when to breathe’ problem at the moment. And it was a holiday that pushed me into overdrive.

    In order to go on my holiday, I had to work double time to make sure things ran smooth while I was gone.

    And being Western, while on holiday I rushed here and there, making sure I didn’t miss anything.

    I was understandably tired when I made it back home.

    Home is where the rest is I guess :-)

    And now, instead of giving myself time to let my writing breathe, I’m squashing it all together, then throwing it out there.

    So just like you said, I need a proper holiday.

    Catherine Wentworths last blog post..Quick & Dirty Thai Language Learning with Myke Hawke

  3. Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome says:

    I take far too much breathing space - I need to learn the opposite: how to speed up my breathing and build up momentum. I tire too quickly when writing.

    Then again, short bursts are okay as long as I can get myself to do them daily…

    Alex Fayle | Someday Syndromes last blog post..How Not to Follow Your Dreams

  4. Karen Swim
    Twitter: karenswim

    “Some people think that time spent not writing is time wasted, or a sign of weakness. ” Such wise words. Our culture has become so Type A that we feel guilty when we are not checking things off at warp speed. It takes courage to step away, to put some distance between you and your work. The trick of course is knowing not only when to breathe but when to return. Such great advice Iain!

    Karen Swims last blog post..March of the Illiterati in E Flat

  5. Iain Broome
    Twitter: iainbroome

    Hello everyone and thanks for your comments so far. I’ll try and make sure I resopond to all of them.

    @Jan Yes, it does go a little against accepted wisdom to have more than one thing on the go at any given time, but for me it helps release some of the pressure than writing can bring. That said, you do have to manage it correctly and know what to focus on at the right time.

    @Catherine Definitely. Go on, get yourself off and away somewhere! Seriously though, us writers can be very harsh on ourselves.While I don’t advocate sitting about doing nothing at the slightest hint of fatigue or brainbox-block, it really isn’t a crime to spend some time away from your writing.

    @Alex Writing is tiring, and short bursts are a good way of breaking up your writing time to stop yourself from becoming overloaded. I guess it’s all about rhythm and routine. If you can get used to writing at specific times and then taking a breather at specific times too, you’ll be on to winner.

    Iain Broomes last blog post..An interview with Jean Hannah Edelstein (Part one)

  6. Tumblemoose says:


    Interesting perspective. There are times when I have been stuck and my breathing routine then consists of getting away from the computer and doing something else for a while. Often, I’ll cogitate the problem while I’m away. I go back fresh, and usually I can plow my way forward.

    Joanna, Thanks for having Iain. He’s one of my favorite folks to pay attention to on the web.



    Tumblemooses last blog post..What Kindergarten taught me about writing today

  7. Shari Smothers says:

    I especially like number 2 because I’ve experienced how switching projects has helped my writing. I’ll also take breaks by writing in my personal journal and letting life thoughts have their say. It’s a notebook because I find writing longhand and being away from the computer are very helpful to me.

    Thanks for the great post and comment responses. Makes me think I’m on the right track.

    Shari Smotherss last blog post..drafting

  8. Wordpress SEO says:

    This is one of the things I have a problem with as a writer. I am just starting to become more comfortable as a writer but I still had a lot of work to do. Breathe easy!WordPress SEOs last blog post..3 Ways to Help You Build Backlinks

  9. Iain Broome
    Twitter: iainbroome

    @Karen Indeed. My first post on Write for Your Life incensed one commenter because they believed the only way to write was to plough ahead regardless of your state of mind. I’m sorry, I just don’t buy it. If you’re really struggling, and you can afford a break of some sort, you’d be mad not to take it.

    @Tumblemoose You’re very kind, as ever. And I absolutely agree, time spent away from your work doesn’t have to mean time wasted. Thinking is most encouraged!

    @Shari Yep, more good advice. Whether you change project or change what you write with or on, the key word is change. Do something different and give yourself space.

    @WordPress SEO Yes, breathe easy! Don’t forget to do that, for sure. And like I say, writing is a craft. You will improve the more you do it and there’s no better tonic than practice.

    Iain Broomes last blog post..An interview with Jean Hannah Edelstein (Part one)

  10. James Chapman - A Passion For Writing says:

    Well expressed. It sometimes needs to be understood that too much involvement in your writing can infact inhibit your inspiration and cause many other problems that we writers experience.

    The more times that you step back and take the time to breathe, as you say, then the more confident you will become about many other aspects of your writing.

    James Chapman - A Passion For Writings last blog post..Even More Writers Resources

  11. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Iain welcome to Confident Writing, and thanks for your post, and the thoughtful responses to the comments here. It’s much appreciated. My philosophy in most things, including writing, is to go for what works. We’re all different. There’s no point saying there’s one way one to do things - we need to get better at experimenting, and learning what works best for us, and the project we’re working on. Including, when we need to, taking some time out, and allowing wonderful guest writers to do some of the heavy lifting for you :-)

  12. Brad Shorr says:

    Iain, Everything you said rings true to me. When I get stuck I like to take a long walk. Whether or not I think about the work at hand, I come back energized and much more clear on how I want to express my thoughts.

    Brad Shorrs last blog post..How a Non-Profit Organization (NPO) Can Raise More Money

  13. Iain Broome
    Twitter: iainbroome

    @James Yeah, and I think the confidence comes from having the belief in yourself to go and find some breathing space when a large part of you will want to carry on regardless. Like I say, that step back is a bold move, not a weak one.

    @Joanna Thanks for having me! Of course, you’re right, we all do things differently and there really is no right or wrong way of doing things. My concern though is that writers come to view breathing space as a luxury, when really it has the potential to be a project saver.

    @Bradd You describe the perfect example of short term breathing space, which is a new concept that I think I just invented. Although probably not.

    Iain Broomes last blog post..An interview with Jean Hannah Edelstein (Part one)

    Thanks again for your responses folks. Do any of you have any other practical examples of when you’ve taken time out when perhaps your head was telling you otherwise?

  14. j-a brock says:

    this is a great post, and very timely for me as i recently went through a stage of writing overload! so important to ‘breathe’, and i’ll remember this hint.

    j-a brocks last blog post..Jazzing things up

  15. says:

    A Confident Writer Knows When to Breathe…

    A confident writer knows when to breathe

    As writers, the idea of ‘breathing space’ is likely to mean something different to each of us.

    For me, breathing space is something we must give ourselves when we become too close, too attached to our writ…

  16. wilson says:

    Good stuff from Lain! Talking about breathe, did you know that 90% of people didn’t know the correct breathing way? Most of us are breathing too fast and short, where it’s not the appropriate way!

    Sometimes, we all do need space to wipe away all stresses. When someone said he/she need a breathing space, it means they’re really need some privacy here! Just leave them for a couple of minutes/days, everything will be fined afterward…

    wilsons last blog post..Lotions Are Not Too Good For Newborn Babies!

  17. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    j-a brock it seems to have been timely for a number of people, me included ;-) I’m glad you found it useful

    wilson that’s an interesting point, we often know, or signal to ourselves and others that we need a little bit of ‘time out’ and should listen to that voice when we hear it.

  18. Danielle Ingram says:

    Ahhh I totaly agree, even when writing a 300 word article it can be difficult to detach and stop yourself getting stuck on the wording of one little paragraph, leaving you at 150 words with little inspiration!

    Taking a break away from work is a great way to get outside, take in the world giving you a brilliant opportunity to perhaps grab a bit of inspiration. I guess you never know what you might learn or encounter whilst taking a break away from your desk that could add the finishing touches to your writing.

    I think for me though, breathing space means remembering to add in full-stops and commas, when I get on a roll I write and write and can’t stop.

  19. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Danielle, I love that addition about breathing space meaning punctuation…! Those full stops and commas are always good for our readers to do some breathing too ;-)