The idea of taking a sabbatical from writing - enforced or chosen - is actually a Biblical concept. Then why do we get so stressed when these 'winter' seasons come?
God instituted a Sabbath rest every seventh day. He instructed that the land be allowed to rest and rejuvenate every seven years. The seasons themselves speak to the natural order of God's laws and were put in place for a reason. It follows, then, that 'downtime' is also necessary for the creative process.
Unfortunately, it was more than just eight years of drought that brought on the devastation. Previous to the downturn, many farmers engaged in continuous one-crop farming. Wheat was in high demand after World War 1 and prices were high, so farmers just kept planting the same thing, year after year, with no thought to how this was depleting the soil. When the drought hit and the winds started to blow, the soil just blew away, largely because of these poor practices. Of course, now farmers are very aware of leaving a certain amount of 'fallow' each year, as well as rotating crops, and adding nutrients to the soil. Without necessary rest, disaster will result. It's just one of the laws of nature.
I can't say that I have ever had a prolonged season of writer's block. I have had my ups and downs, but when I hit an unproductive patch I try not to beat myself up too much. The fact that I 'rotate crops' a lot (a.k.a. I write a lot of different things) probably helps keep things moving. Even then, I recognize that there is more to writing than the act of writing. If I find I am in a slump, I try to read more instead. Reading is never a waste of time, even if it's just 'feel good' fiction. I find it's one of the best ways to bring me out of a dry spell and make me excited about writing my own stories again.
The bottom line is this: Times of rest are an essential part of any endeavour. For some people these are short breaks while for others they are drawn out. Either way, they are accomplishing the same thing - a better writer on the other side.
Tracy Krauss teaches high school Art, Drama, and English and in her 'spare' time she writes - novels, stage plays, devotionals, blog posts and lots of other drivel. Visit her website at: tracykrauss.com - fiction on the edge without crossing the line -