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(Note: This essay first appeared on The Writing Bug Blog in December 2011)

I’ve carried my writing dreams as long as I can remember. They took a serious dent when I received some much needed, and brutally honest, criticism of a sample of my work. Prior to sending it out, I was thinking chapbook, gift book, or simply just paperback best seller. The return pages told a different story; so much red ink lined the pages it looked like the blood spattered walls of a desolate cabin in a slasher movie.

Fate smiled a short time later when, on a cold December morning, I stumbled upon the Northern Colorado Writer’s studio. That chance encounter changed the scope and direction of my writing path more than anything since the early 1980’s and my last community college level creative writing course.

Before long, I was attending NCW classes, learning how to blog, rounding up a new critique group and blazing my fingers across whatever keyboard I could find. With only one published article to my credit, it seemed piece number two was mere moments away. I could feel it.

Without much thought, three blogs, one book, two articles and 18 other fabulous ideas squeezed every nanosecond from my dwindling free time. I was never happier. Meeting 11 monthly deadlines engulfed my days and drove me to write. New ideas replaced half-finished first drafts and multiple flash drives did little to organize my collection of ill conceived storylines.

Then it happened; I began to suffocate under my self-imposed burden to produce more (which I mistakenly interpreted as a path to success.) Soon, a missed deadline or two didn’t matter. Shouldering my writer’s bag to and from the car was a close as I got to writing. I was acting like a writer, instead of focusing on becoming a writer. Something had to change.

Thankfully, with encouragement from a mentor and friend, I found the courage to let go. The book was shelved, the blogs came to an immediate halt, and I rediscovered my writing breath, simply because I chose to live outside my writing.

Is your writing allowing you to breathe freely, or is it time to un-cinch the noose you’ve hung around your neck?