Experienced writers know their work isn’t through after the first draft. The opposite is true: Your first draft is the beginning of a long, tedious cycle. Quality work comes from months of writing, editing, and rewriting.
Most of a writer’s stress emerges in the editing phase. If done without pause, editing can make you sick. I’ve spent hours staring at sentences, trying make them perfect. Sometimes this is a sign you’re done editing—Briana Morgan discusses this in her article, When to Stop Editing. In my case, I rarely feel my work is good enough. When I reach the obsessive phase, I know I have to stop.
Not only are breaks healthy for authors, they improve writing quality. Stepping away from the manuscript lets us spot errors more clearly.
If you’re worried about losing your storytelling spark during this break, never fear. Writers find inspiration in everything we do; here are five guilt-free ways to pass time spent away from your manuscript.
Many writers forget to go breathe fresh air (I’m one of them.)
A manuscript is so demanding! It eats our time, and we lose track of days…months…seasons…
Go outside to read in the backyard, or photograph flowers as they bloom. Take a walk and pay attention to people on the streets. If you meet someone walking a cute dog, ask if you can pet the dog—fluffy animals always make things better!
Gather life experiences to write in your next story.
READ A LOT.
For a writer, reading is crucial. Each time we read a published work, we open the door for improvement in the craft. If you’re mentally worn out from edits, reading is perhaps the most beneficial way to keep busy.
We learn to write well by exposing ourselves to good writing. Reading shows us:
- Character traits, and how to write realistic protagonists.
- Punctuation and grammar. You may have gotten good grades at school, but it never hurts to brush up on this by seeing it used first-hand.
- Description. Let an experienced author sweep you away with words; learn their secrets to improve your prose.
- Story structure. Pay attention to a book’s story arc, and try to identify the midpoint and climax. Writers need to know this.
She’s Novel offers insight on this in her article, How to Read Critically and Become a Better Author.
UPDATE YOUR BLOG.
As someone devoted to writing and blogging, I struggle to manage both projects once in the heavy editing mindset.
- It affects my blog. When I get caught up editing, I forget to plan posts ahead of time, resulting in weeks of no updates.
- It affects my writing. In the back of my mind, I know pageviews are probably going down; I know I’m ignoring my blogging schedule, which creates a whirlwind of guilt and conflict.
This is your chance to make up for the time you spent neglecting your blog.
CLEAN YOUR WORKSPACE.
Of the five options, this doesn’t sound like the most exciting way to kill time. Trust me, it’s necessary.
During the weeks spent immersed in edits, I bet you didn’t empty your wastepaper basket. A pile of books has accumulated on your desk, your carpet may need vacuuming, and shoes have ended up all over the place.
It’s ridiculous how fast a workspace can get messy. You might ask yourself, “How did that coffee cup end up here?” Or, “Where did that layer of dust come from?”
Tidying up will make you feel better about returning to edits.
TAKE LOTS OF NAPS.
Catch up on rest you’ve neglected while working.
Many people don’t realize the effort edits require; it can be physically draining. Don’t feel ashamed to sleep for a while. Just because you’re not actively working on something, doesn’t mean you’re not making progress.
Your body and mind need recharging in order to do a good job.
It’s tempting to open that manuscript and make one more, tiny change. Trust me, you’ll make more progress after letting it go for a while.
Two weeks may seem like a long time to not get editing done, but don’t worry. You will finish, and the resting period will help you produce quality work. Remember, time flies—before you know it, you’ll be at the computer editing that manuscript…again.
You may even find yourself wishing for another break. How’s that for irony?