As most of you know, I have a fiction series on submission and a nonfiction book on submission, so the waiting is doubly hard and I've definitely been looking for healthy ways of dealing with the stress. In fact, I wrote about being on submission back in May, rambling about a weird need to connect with other writers to help combat some of the nervous energy. Back then, I hadn't even signed with my second agent yet (for the nonfiction). It's gotten worse since then.
And then Vaughn shows up with this lovely post, recommending that writers do the following things to keep the pilot light burning:
- Writing (something different from your usual writing)
- Revisiting/rereading older work
- Sharing your work with others
- Reaching out/connecting with other writers
I thought, in order to give back a little, I might offer my additional ways to keep that light burning. Here they are.
- Helping others. As a person with an editing background, I'm well equipped to help other writers, and as an author who's signed with not one but two agents, I know my way around the querying process. I've been participating as a mentor in contests and help threads, helping people learn about querying and publishing options through creating YouTube videos and writing essays, and for my critique partners or writing friends, I've assisted on the development of their books. It increases one's ability to turn out more polished manuscripts, and it leaves you with a group of people who will never forget what you did for them, ready to support you when you need it.
- Doing other creative projects. I'm not just a writer; I'm a singer and a sort of passable artist, so I like putting these together with writing sometimes (or not). I do webcomics and share them. I sing songs and post them. I take photos, make websites, bake cookies. Some of y'all might enjoy other things like gardening or sewing or making candles. This can leave you feeling like you're still in touch with that essence that makes you a writer without burning you out by making you do it too often.
- Writing about writing. If I'm not in a head space to write new material, I might still enjoy offering my perspectives on writing or analyzing my own work. Find a character questionnaire and fill it out. Answer a survey about your writing habits. Do free-writing exercises involving characters from different books meeting each other or inserting one of your characters into a book you liked. Work on the background of your fantasy world--its map, its history, its invented language. Analyze your dramatic arc for fun or write your book's blurb, synopsis, or author bio (seriously or in a silly way).
- Catching up on what you've been neglecting. I don't know about y'all, but when I'm writing I fall behind on any media I want to consume, fall out of touch with friends more, fall way behind with housework, and indefinitely shelve projects. When I'm waiting for an answer on something, I can distract myself and revitalize myself by reconnecting with these fun pastimes or necessary evils, and it turns out to be very cleansing--making it that much more likely that I'll be ready to create again soon.
- Planning for the future. If I have a finished project going out to my agent and it's going on submission (i.e., exactly what's happened to me twice now, the second happening when I hadn't resolved the first), I can do things like look for other publishing opportunities for my short stories, decide what I'm going to revise next, do some pre-plotting or research on another project, and get my ducks in a row for whenever I'm ready to jump back in. Preparing to do something often isn't as intimidating as actually doing it, and if you lay the groundwork you're more likely to feel like you're ready to tackle it when the time comes, whereas if you're ready to tackle it but there's all this unsatisfying prep work to do, then you might continue to procrastinate.