Between Big Writing Projects, I Always do These Things
Whatever “Always” Means
I’ll have to get this in quick. I only have about five minutes.
That’s the crux of the matter, really. The idea of between has lost meaning. I’ve taken on the scratchy wool sweater of the writer. It’s the reason I’m always so nervous and overwarm. The shyness might have something to do with it too, but frankly I can’t escape the skin. I decided to be a writer when I was twelve, and that is always there causing guilt about not writing. I’m uncomfortable about everything that isn’t part of the project I’m on.
To a point. I mean, I do take breaks…sort of.
Not on weekends, though.
And not on Holidays.
Every day is a work day.
There’s not really a “between” between my biggest projects. Not anymore. Used to be there was. Used to be I had to decompress and think about my life a little. Now I just call that “grabbing a notebook.” Instead of writing in a manuscript, with as precise and readable prose as I can, I write notes and exploration in a notebook instead.
Drop the keyboard, grab the pen.
In the end, that’s the nature of it. So here’s the list of how I spend the time between my big writing projects.
I need to make this list efficient, though. I’ve only got about five minutes to do it.
- Take a deep breath — take a walk — smile. Job one for this phase of the writer’s life is really FEELING my sense of accomplishment. Ninety percent of all the work we do as writers is invisible. It’s important to feel accomplished.
- Start my celebration cup of tea. Important! It takes about six minutes to make a cup of tea, so I won’t even have time to finish making it before it’s time to start the next project. It’s important to remind myself, though, that there’s more in reality than just writing. Tea is useful for that.
- Agonize. Not required, but inevitable. A climactic moment in a manuscript is a powerful energy to use to launch into starting a new project. It’s an emotional wrench, though, making the switch between projects. It must be done.
- Grab a notebook. That’s my trick. I grab a notebook, and I start writing what I know about the project or projects I’ll be taking up next. I don’t write anything that’s anything. I write what I KNOW about the next project, not so in a way where it ought to be read, but so that I’ve moved it out of my head and moved my head into the next stage. Usually, I’ve got a few projects that I’d LIKE to get to, so I start on one of them. I do whichever one feels most attractive. There’s a reason it does. NOTE: Sometimes I haven’t got something I’m interested in. When that happens, I write what I know about that I know I like. A story usually comes up.
- Put my tea together. By now the water started boiling.
- Add six books to my “Want to Read” shelf in GoodReads.
- Start writing.
The Moral of the Story
Listen, if we’re writers, there shouldn’t be a lot of time “between” projects. It’s important to prepare yourself for good editing. Editing takes a different mind than writing does. The result: any manuscript needs your attention in three different ways (the three kinds of attention to be written of in a future blog). Those three ways are the inventive way, the creative way, and the revisionary way.
The surest way of helping myself move away from the creative mindset into the revision mindset for a given manuscript is by moving on to a different project.
I finished a novel. I’ve started another. When I’ve gotten along most of the way through this manuscript, it’ll be time to edit the last one.
Cycles. Work comes in cycles.