I would love to know why taking a break from writing and revising a manuscript gives fresh perspective of that work. It is one of those miracles of writing. A writer sends a manuscript away to a cozy drawer or corner hide-away on the computer for a bit and somehow the brain breathes and revives (or something) so that when it’s time to reunite with the manuscript, there is often magic. There is a fresh perspective that smells a lot like clarity. For me, it’s kind of like putting in fresh contacts. This works especially well when I’m not happy with something I’ve written—when things are not working and I’m ripping out way too much hair.
How long a break? I’ve read that a healthy break for a book-length manuscript is a month, which is about right for me. Here’s the rub, though: I am really impatient. I mean, REALLY impatient. A month might as well be a year. With that in mind, here are some things that I do to distract myself while my manuscript vacations:
Go on my own vacation. I wish. Unfortunately, escaping to some tropical paradise for a month break doesn’t usually work out for me, but it’s a nice fantasy.
Get organized. While I’m finishing a novel, I put off tons of life stuff. A manuscript vacation is the perfect time to catch up on everything. This includes cleaning my office, which usually has dropped books and magazines, too many pages, pens, notes, and all kinds of scary miscellaneous stuff in a bizarre semi-circle around my desk by the time I type “The End.” Finding the floor and getting back to some level of organization is therapeutic.
Start a new novel. This is my agent’s favorite way for his clients to take their minds off of finished projects. I agree. Immersing in a new project is very distracting. The only catch is the necessity of taking a break from the new project when it’s time to revisit the one that’s been on vacation.
Revisit life. This includes retail therapy (a.k.a. shopping), meeting pals for lunch (and probably picking up the bill since I’ve been ignoring them), exercising, and generally indulging in treats that I put off for the sake of the work in progress.
Do you put your manuscripts away for a while after you’ve finished them? If so, how do you distract yourself during manuscript vacations?