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It’s time for a break. Not a drive-around-the-lake kinda break, or a quick trip to Starbucks. Nope, now’s the time for an extended one; a place for your mind to cool a bit from the frenzy and let the chaotic miasma unravel and come back to rest.
Otherwise—and I promise you this—you’ll maim the baby on the page. This is where writers so often tell me they want to revise the manuscript one more time even though they’re unable to process the words and find themselves doing some version of paragraph one above. But they just can’t let go, can’t back away, are afraid everything is not exactly right and if that’s the case, the writing police will find and cite them for some awful unforgivable infraction. Yep, the root of all this is fear, which we talked about last month! And fear such as this does not accomplish one good thing.
When you reach this point, just stop. Take a deep breath. It’s time to put aside the masterpiece and take up hiking for the Fall. Or come down with hollyhock-itis and plant bulbs one by one. Or take that cooking class and whip up scrumptious delights for which you invite me over to try.
This is also the perfect time to let a good editor take over for a bit. Whether novice or seasoned pro, everyone needs outside eyes and depending upon what sort of editing you seek, your book will be out of your hands for two weeks to two months. And you need at least the latter—a good two months away.
Writers freak at this! Eight entire weeks? Of not working? And I know I have just sprouted horns in their images of me. But, in a word, yes. Once you’ve devolved to circling your brain with words you don’t remember knowing, that break is mandatory.
Now, it doesn’t mean you can’t write at all. Something totally different works great during this time. If you usually write novels, short fiction is a wonderful way of cleansing the palate. Or, essays, articles—the further afield of what you normally write, the better. Just the exercise itself is rejuvenating.
I always take this time to just read. You know—all those books and stories you’ve been meaning to get to but haven’t had the time? The perfect antidote for not writing is reading great books. Of course, in my world, that’s pretty much the perfect antidote for everything up to and including a nuclear holocaust, but that’s another story!
Or see all those friends/family who’ve been wondering if you still exist or have literally become a vampire since you’re never seen in daylight and your skin’s turned ghostly pale. You know—those folks you ostensibly love and who’re now doubting that fact.
In other words, go play. Let your creative psyche decompress and heal and remember what joy is. What Thanksgiving is. Partake of life and all its abundance again, and feel the gratitude that comes with that. Which is exactly how you dispel the guilt piled on by the demons of writing who crucify you for not working. Being grateful shuts them smooth up :)
The funniest result of your extended time off? When you get back to it, your subconscious creative mind has actually been working all that time, and what bubbles up from there is better, stronger, more wonderful and delightful than you ever thought you could write. Now, that’s something be thankful for.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Award-winning author and editor Susan Mary Malone has four traditionally published books to her credit (fiction and nonfiction) and many published short stories. A freelance editor, forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to Traditional publishers. You can see more about her, and what authors say about working with her, at: www.maloneeditorial.com