by Paul Krueger
Last week, I hit SAVE on the last developmental draft of my book and sent it screaming for my editrix’s inbox like the literary cruise missile it is. It was the third draft I’d completed this year, but that did nothing to diminish the thrill.
So right now, I’m still high on post-draft fumes. I’ve dived into my Netflix to-do list with gusto, and I’ve begun re-establishing contact with my friends to remind them that I, in fact, exist. But those fumes are about to run dry, and I’ll be left sitting here and wondering what the hell to do with my hands.
So before my end-of-The Graduate mood sets in, I’m going to take a moment to highlight the best way to keep yourself sane between projects.
Don’t Write Anything.
If you’re like me, your brain’s constantly overflowing with ideas you can’t wait to get on paper. If we’re being honest, you probably won’t live long enough to use every idea you’ve got now, let alone the ones you’ll get down the line. So now that this Athena has sprung from your head and onto your copy of Scrivener, you’re probably eager to get to the next one in line.
Yeah, don’t do that.
The fact is, you just ran a freaking marathon. And you know what happened to the first person who ever ran a marathon? He died right when he finished, using his last breath to christen a nascent sporting goods corporation. You, presumably, have lived through your mental marathon, but you know what’s a great way to make yourself keel over and mentally die? Attempting another, right away. Don’t be afraid to take a breath. Or two. Or however many you take in the span of a month.
Ah, but then the anxiety starts to set in, doesn’t it? You’ve had this parasite perched in your brainpan for the past however long, and all of a sudden you don’t remember quite how to function without it leeching away your idle thoughts. You’re used to feeling productive, and every second you’re not making something, you feel a creeping sense of Puritanical guilt over it. Or you’re busy resenting a stranger on the internet, because he seems to be making an awful lot of assumptions about how your mind works.
But on the off-chance you are, in fact, like me, I have a second piece of advice:
Do Literally Anything Else.
The first time I finished a novel, I took up carpentry. Last time, I flew to Chicago and spent a weekend in my friend’s basement recording an album. Right now I’m failing very hard at drawing, and loving every moment of it. Next time, I might pick up a dead language. I might get back into fencing. I might take up traveling from one small town to another, solving mysteries and unmasking “ghosts” that were really just cover-ups of shady land deals. The point is, I’m doing something other than the thing that just wrung my brain within an inch of its life.But I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t counting down the days until I could dive back in.
Paul Krueger is the author of the NA urban fantasy The Devil's Water Dictionary (Quirk Books, 2015). His short fiction has appeared in the 2013 Sword & Laser Anthology, and also in his copy of Microsoft Word. You're most likely to find him on Twitter, where he's probably putting off something important.