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Should Artists Produce Constantly Without a Break?

Jason Brandt Schaefer is a novelist, artist, and songwriter living in Boulder, CO. He is the founder of Empathic Editors and is seeking representation for his novel about Wiccan youth titled Handfasting. His work appears in The MacGuffin and online at

“I don’t write every day. I’ve never been able to. And I reject the notion that artists must produce constantly without a break”

This does not mean you should neglect the urge to create. The more time you spend away from a project, likely the more time it will take to finish. But if you’re chipping away at something, you’re already doing the work, and it might even go faster after some distance from it.

The tenor saxophonist, Sonny Rollins, famously took a two-year sabbatical from live performance to practice under Manhattan’s Williamsburg Bridge and emerged from that experience with a brand-new sound.

After Dave Chappelle took 10 years off after turning down a 50 million dollar television contract he developed profound new methods to confront social justice issues through his comedy.

It took Salinger about 10 years to finish the final draft of Catcher in the Rye.

It took Brian Leon, one of Schaefer’s mentors, twelve to finish his first novel, Lost Men.

It took Schaefer 8 yrs. to finish his manuscript.

These stories reaffirm that art takes time. Having experienced this himself, Schaefer admits that self-flagellating only makes the work harder than it must be. It indulges the demons of self-doubt that most, if not all, artists suffer from.

When you compare these stories of artists with the innumerable prescriptions out there in the world, you’ll realize that patience, trusting one’s instincts, and committing to completion are the only consistent evolutions in an artist’s life.

“Forcing yourself to create every day is a good way to make an adversary of your creative instincts, which I rather have on my side,” says Schaefer.

Like Nora Ephron said, it’s all material. Every moment you spend seeking something new is a moment you’ve gained wisdom; a moment you can write about; a moment that makes you human. Every thing you are interested in, and every thing you’re already doing, is the writing life.

For someone distrusting advice in general and re-framing it into fit his needs as a multidisciplinary artist, Schaefer has an advice for you; That is, to find the way you write, and do that. The work you love most is going to get done. Inevitably.

Shafeeka Hafeez

Shafeeka Hafeez grew up escaping into a world of books where she discovered a love for writing and a fascination with trees. When she’s not taking up a new marketing skill, or typing out a blog post, you can find her Googling the best therapy for abandoned cats.

July 6, 2022

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