Some writerly, some not—here are a few ways to fill your days while your manuscript has a well-deserved nap.
You worked long and hard on your manuscript. You spent weeks, months, years fine-tuning. You stared at the pages until you came to hate them, until you barely remembered writing the words. Perhaps you're between edits. Perhaps your baby is off with beta-readers. Your manuscript is tucked safely in a drawer, and you are free to wrestle your life from its pages.
The first day after my current work went off to betas, I relaxed. I relished in my newfound freedom. The second day, I stared at the wall and chewed my fingernails. If you're suffering from writing-withdrawals, read on, here are ten ideas to try out.
1. Write a Short Story
What is a short story again? That's like a mini book, right? I think I wrote some of those before this project, back in the good old days. Back when my mind could concentrate on other characters and storylines.
Give it a go. Get some variety in your writing. Focusing on one set of characters for a long period of time is wonderful, but it's also wonderful to get to know lots of characters. Let them walk in and out of your mind, and write their stories in their tracks. Write in different styles and different points of view. Write something completely different than that manuscript asleep in the drawer.
While you're at it, submit. Send some of this work away to magazines. Give yourself something to focus on and look forward to. There's nothing like waiting on that acceptance/rejection slip. It will give your mind somewhere to go besides the dormant pages.
2. Go for a Run
I love running. I do. But while I was working on my manuscript, my runs got shorter and shorter. The entire time, I was thinking, If I cut two miles off this run, I can write an extra 500 words before work.
Since my manuscript has been resting, running has become again what it should be: a release. I am able to clear my mind and enjoy the run. So do the thing that takes too much time. The thing you enjoy, but has taken a backseat to your manuscript. Give it shotgun again.
3. Have a Drink
I'm not talking about that bottle in your kitchen that got you through the last fifty pages. I'm talking about going out and enjoying yourself. Go spend too much money on a cocktail. Sip it slowly and enjoy. Go to a restaurant you love, and order your favorite meal. If you like to cook, make a nice dinner. Take your time, and be in the moment. You don't have to think about how many words you're going to write or how many pages you're going to edit. All you have to think about is the present. Savor it.
4. Read a Book
Some books are bound. And written by other people. Read one. Read the book on your shelf you bought a month ago but haven't cracked the spine. Read something completely outside of your niche. Beta-read for another writer (10 gold stars for that).
It is impossible to be a good writer without reading, but when you're obsessing over a project there isn't always time. Now there is. Make the most of it.
5. See Your Friends
They miss you, really. If they don't, go make some new friends. You've had to tell them, "No, I can't go to the movies. I have to write." And, "Sorry I missed the party. I was editing."
Now that you have some time, give them some. They deserve it. They're the ones who will celebrate with you when your (sleeping) manuscript is published. They're the ones you will call when you land an agent, squealing over the phone. They're the ones who will be there for you. Don't forget them.
6. Work a Puzzle
Jigsaw puzzles, Sudoku, mazes. Whatever you enjoy. Whatever gets your mind to that blank state it hasn't visited in so long. There's something about working puzzles, clearing everything out. It's wonderful and time-consuming. Spend a few hours putting together a puzzle.
7. Watch a Game
Baseball. Football. Rugby. Whatever your sport is, sit down and watch a game. A whole game. Not the highlights, not the last two innings. Watch it from start to finish, and don't feel guilty because you should be working on your manuscript.
If sports aren't your thing, watch a movie. Binge-watch Game of Thrones. Watch the cooking channel, then skip back to #3 when it makes you hungry.
8. Have Conversations with Family
Talk to them about something other than your characters and plot. Because they're sick of hearing about your project, I promise. We can't help it. We are compelled to talk about our work in progress. It is the absolute most interesting thing in our lives. But as much as your family loves you, they don't care.
Talk to them about current events, weather, sports, life. Talk to them about anything other than writing. Most importantly, ask them what's going on in their lives. Because if you're like me, you have utterly neglected to do so.
Your friends will be there for you, and so will your family. Make sure you're there for them.
9. Go Outside
That's the place where there is sun and rain. There tend to be trees, and if you live in my area, mountains and mosquitos. Go hiking. Go to the lake. Get a tan. Walk or run or sit under a shady tree, and check out the world outside your manuscript. It's great, I promise.
10. Start Another Book
Writers write. When everything else gets old, you'll feel it start gnawing at you again—the need to write. You'll feel it in the pit of your stomach. Maybe you'll see something while you're working through #1-9 that sparks an idea. You'll have an uncontrollable desire to write it down. Go ahead, start another one. Let it take you over.
Then do it all again.
What do you do while your work is resting? Let me know in the comments!
Author & Editor