The Beauty of Black Women Pausing

Last year, quite unintentionally, I fell into one of the most fruitful pauses of my life. 

I didn’t plan for the pause. In fact, quite the opposite. When I uploaded my May 9 blog post about the importance of preserving our democracy, I did so with other blog ideas in my mental pipeline. The following weekend, I wrote my next post and prepared to lay it out on the website. But when it came time to press “post”, I hesitated. The post felt too raw, too personal, too forced. I decided to take a week off. 

The next week, the same thing happened. And the week after that, too. Eventually, I stopped sitting down to write my posts. I told myself I’d take a few weeks. A few weeks became a month, and then a quarter, and then the rest of the year.

Strangely, I didn’t panic. This, despite every message I’ve heard about success:

That you have to strike while the iron is hot. That if you stop, you’ll lose momentum and therefore success and therefore relevancy. That you have to keep working even when you’re tired, and even when your body and mind are begging for a break.

Still, needling me in the back of my mind was the fact that pauses are bad for business. My day job is in marketing and communications, and I know that with blog posts, consistency is essential: posting at least weekly is key to helping a blog gain and retain traction. 

And yet, I paused. 

I let my pause run its natural course. I trusted that when the season was right, my blog would bloom again.

I often thought of my ancestors, who understood that there are seasons of growth and harvest, of blooming and of rest. They understood that one plot of land sometimes needs to lie fallow in order to bear fruit later, and that, in the meantime, other land can provide the nourishment we need.

So, I let my blog lie fallow. 

I used the time to reflect. To work on a novel. To recover from the demands of my full-time day job. To narrow down why and for whom I am writing for.

I realized that I believe in a world where magic resides in each and every thing, and that my mission is to capture and convey that magic through stories that mirror, that witness, and that inspire.

I realized that I was growing weary of keeping watch over the news cycle and the pressure I felt – mostly self-imposed – to comment upon current events. The stories were the same week in and week out, depressing and unrelenting. Racism and misogyny don’t take breaks, and I didn’t want to remark on every instance of voter suppression, racist violence, or discrimination. 

And so, I let my pause run its natural course. I trusted that when the season was right, my blog would bloom again.

In the meantime, I relished in stories of Black women pausing. 

I thought about the iconic singer Sade Adu, who, at the pinnacle of her success took eight years to release her fifth album (in 1992), waited another ten years to release her sixth (in 2010), and since then hasn’t released new music, save for a beautifully haunting single for the 2018 film A Wrinkle in Time.

Adu has said, “I only make records when I feel I have something to say. I’m not interested in releasing music just for the sake of selling something. Sade is not a brand.”

In other words, Sade paused.

Sometimes, creativity can only come by letting fallow ground replenish while we tend to other gardens.

So too, has writer, producer, and actress Quinta Brunson. The Abbott Elementary creator had a remarkable 2022, in which she was named one of Time’s Most Influential People, won an Emmy, and saw her show Abbott Elementary become one of the most popular and critically acclaimed shows of the year.

In a recent interview, Stephen Colbert asked Brunson if she felt pressure to build on last year’s successes. “Do you feel a need to one-up this year?” he asked.

“Opposite,” Brunson said. “I want to one-down it. I want to rest.”

Rest is the hallmark of artist and writer Tricia Hersey’s work. The self-proclaimed “Nap Bishop” founded The Nap Ministry as a “movement to understand the liberatory power of rest” – particularly for Black people and especially for Black women. Following Hersey’s work was a balm to me during my pause. She reminded me constantly that I am doing enough, that a pause needs no explanation, that worth cannot be summarized in likes and shares, that simply desiring to pause is reason enough to do it.

What Hersey, Brunson, and Adu understand is that there will always be pressure on Black women to produce, to enumerate their value, to work and to give until they are no more. If we left it up to others to decide whether we work or rest, we may never have the opportunity to pause. Therefore, we must feel empowered to seek our own pauses, our own pockets of silence – whether those pockets last a few minutes or, in my own case, more than half a year.

What I have learned in my extended pocket of silence is that sometimes, creativity can only come by letting fallow ground replenish while we tend to other gardens.

In my pause, I tended to the gardens of my writing, my family, and my self.

And now, that once-fallow land feels more replenished. Its soil is richer and it’s starting to show sprigs of green. At last, it feels time to plant and sow.

At last, the pause has run its course.

8 responses to “The Beauty of Black Women Pausing”

  1. martha twaddell Avatar
    martha twaddell

    I’m glad you’re writing and feeling replenished. Your words are welcomed.

  2. What a beautiful and inspiring thought to wake up to. Thank you for taking a pause and for leading out loud. It’s always a treat to read this blog and I’m glad for it this morning.

    1. Thank you for these words, Taylor. I’m so glad this post resonated with you. I’ve been sitting with these thoughts for a while!

  3. I loved every word of this.

  4. Irie, I have recently had a pause also. Your writing is so inspirational and comforting so it has given me even more permission to pause. Mine has ended I think and included friends, computer and even church. This seemed appropriate after 65 years of faithful attendance and work. Also grief has placed an extra struggle during this time. My pause is different due to my age and stage. I am back to watching the daily news which had just gotten taxing due to racism and violence. Thank you so much for sharing your personal pause. I appreciate it so much.

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