There is a point between bigger projects when I decide to not actively write. It is a time to gather pieces of the next bigger story; it is a time to let new ideas bubble up.
When I chat with people about their day jobs — whether they work outside, in warehouses, or in offices — most people talk about hitting targets.
Asking if they ever just sit and think, the answer is almost always no. There’s too much to do, they say. (I know people who loathe even three-day weekends because all they do is think about all the emailing piling up in their inboxes.)
When one project is finished, it’s time to rush to the next.
The Rush of Writing
When writing a novel, there are so many things to do — at times it seems like it will never end. And, just like a day job, I know writers who move from one book to the next as quickly as they can, as though tackling that next day-job project or target.
It works for many writers, and that’s wonderful. But it’s nice knowing I’m not alone in a still time between bigger things.
Many of my favorite writers talk about doing nothing between novels…sometimes for years. Even when their heads feel ready to burst with something new, they clean, read, and sit still until they can sit still no longer.
Some actively prolong the process, making sure they aren’t starting prematurely according to their process. Others admit they are simply lazy and enjoy having long bits of time off. But most seem to need time to fill their heads with everything that will carry them through a new book.
Doing Nothing Much At All
While I don’t sit still as long as I once did, I enjoy this time between novels. I tend to read even more than usual. And while there are always short stories to be written, I find myself writing pieces of new things that might later become bigger than their original moments.
I allow my mind to wander without direction, doing what I can to capture what bubbles up along the way. It is a time to read through old journals and story ideas…sometimes thinking, “Oh yeah, I should really do something with that,” so I do. Maybe it becomes a finished story, or maybe only a bit more is added to it until the next novel is complete.
Doing all this, there will come a morning when I can put off the next book no longer. I might start and stop a few times, getting a feel for the new story before making it my obsessive focus for the next handful of years. Because of that, I think it’s important to savor this more still time rather than feeling a need to rush into the next thing, reducing something I love dearly to just another item on a to-do list.
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Photo: Matus Hatala