For 12 days, I frolicked, lazed, bummed, drove, rolled, ate, and hiked my way through Malaysia. I literally hit send on my #PitchWars submission and hopped on a plane the next day. I didn’t plan it that way, but I’m so damn happy it worked out like that.
I spent July sleeping, breathing, eating, living my manuscript. I went to work for 8 hours every day, then revised for at least 3 hours after that. I cut thousands of words, characters, plots, subplots, etc. You name it, it was under my knife with the threat of extinction. I honestly cannot believe I did all that in one month.
And then I finished and I submitted and I said, “Deuces.”
And I really needed that.
I was fried. Totally undone and manic and suffering under the guise of excitement. I needed to get out of my head-space and dive into something that did not require me to use so many brain cells. I needed to disconnect because my stress was leaking into other parts of my life and souring friendships and familial relationships. Even while I was on vacation, I just couldn’t devote time to other people and their emotional needs because my own spring of well-being had dried up to the point that giving any away would have meant running totally empty.
And that’s okay. We tend to define ourselves by others, whether people need us or run to us or think of us or approve of us, and that’s human nature. But it’s okay to step back and care for yourself first. It’s not selfish to clean up and refill your emotional well. My time away was refreshing and so incredibly necessary.
This wasn’t what I set out to say at the beginning of this post. I meant to relate this to writing. Here goes:
Whenever you finish a round of edits, or a draft, or writing becomes a slog through the mud, then step back from your manuscript.
Sometimes that means taking a walk or a weekend and focusing on yourself, your relationships, your life outside writing. For me, that’s an answer to writer’s block. Clear your head, let ideas flow through you, and come back with determination and motivation.
But I think, in my very limited opinion, longer bouts of time away are even more necessary—especially between drafts and rounds of editing. A month, even two, will provide worlds of perspective. If you have the time to do it, file that manuscript away and let it be. Let the words fade from your memory and only the plot remain.
Spend that time on another book, whether that means writing a new WIP or reading something you haven’t had time to pick up. Study your craft. Travel and gain life experience outside of fictional stories. Live the adventures you write or simply continue writing adventures.
When you come back to that manuscript, things will blare out at you—FIX ME! And you won’t be able to ignore it. Things you didn’t realize before, things you had an inkling weren’t quite right, they will become so obvious you’ll think you were dumb only a month ago.
Time away gives us perspective on so many things, and writing is no different.