December. I love this time of year, when darkness lingers a bit longer, and cooling clouds visit our blue Arizona skies more often. It’s perfect writing weather.
I’m going to hold off on starting a big new writing project, though. I didn’t do NaNoWriMo this year, but I did reach a milestone with my writing, and actually finished my book. It has a beginning, a middle, and an ending, and it’s a readable story. It’s really not bad at all, and I’m still a little giddy over it.
But, there is this gap. I wasn’t prepared for the gap, but I’m sure more experienced writers understand: Just because I am finished, doesn’t mean I’m done. There is more editing to do, even yet. Surely more writing to do. Plus, the book plan, the query letters, all that. I’ve still got more work to do to get this book out into the world.
So this month, I’m working in the gap. Finishing up this project. Thinking about what is next.
What I’ve noticed while focused on this project, is that the farther along I got, the more my other writing really suffered. I haven’t really kept a journal all year, and my idea notebooks have gathered dust. It makes me feel disconnected from myself, like waking up from a good dream a little confused. Where am I? Who am I? What is it I need to do? Well, here it is, December 1st. It’s a perfect month for this gap work.
I’m reviewing this past year, and making plans for the new one. I’m pulling all my old notebooks and scraps of paper to mine them for ideas, inspiration, texture. My Evernote account needs attention, too. As a writer, I always think of myself as lost in the forest, leaving myself breadcrumbs and clues for later ideas. So, it’s time to find some of those breadcrumbs and digest them. I left them for direction and for nourishment, after all.
I’ll look at the calendar and think about next year. When are the kids out of school? When can I get the writing done? What stories are in queue and need to be told? Should I try to write a few short stories before starting on my next book? What do I really want, as a person, and as a writer, for 2018? What new habits should I start? What old habits can I give away?
This is gap work.
It’s December, now. Time for rest, for family, for celebration. There are rhythms and seasons to life and to writing. If you’ve had a busy writing year, or are coming off of NaNoWriMo or any other big project – find yourself some gap time. Finish up the project, reflect, rest, recalibrate. We need the gap for good mental hygiene. To let our minds air out and breathe, to get our writer brains excited about a story again. Sometimes we don’t realize the mental stress we place on ourselves as writers, or how the book or story consumes our entire internal landscape.
Let it go for a while and focus on the gap work. Breathe. The New Year approaches.
Let’s be ready.