Solution to Writing Obstacle No. 13:

“I have serious health issues; I think I may
need a break from writing to deal with them.”

I knew a graduate student who took an official year-long leave from graduate school to deal with health issues and depression.

When I learned of this plan, I wondered if the graduate student would ever return. She was shy and seemed anxious.

But she did return and over the next few years I watched her grow into a truly remarkable person, not just more confident, but sharper, both more incisive and generous, a leader, and with an unusually rich dissertation. Clearly, for her, taking a year off was hugely beneficial.

Since then, I have seen several graduate students do better after taking an official leave.

I’ve also seen people facing serious health issues and traumas find in their work a safe place.

Once, when I complimented an undergraduate on how steadily she worked on her senior thesis, she told me that her sibling had committed suicide the year before and the only thing that enabled her to get up every morning was her research.

I suffered from terrible back pain during the years of writing of my dissertation and I found that writing was the only thing that truly distracted me from it. Watching television didn’t require enough concentration.

So, only you know what will be best for you—I’ve seen both taking a break and sticking it out work. There’s no shame in either.

Solution to Writing Obstacle No. 13, one of the health obstacles listed on page 31 of Belcher’s Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success (University of Chicago Press, 2019).