I did it. Somehow through the tight deadline, the impossibly long list of to-dos, revisions, beta reader feedback, and endless edits, I finally finished my Writers of the Future contest story.
After I settle on a title for this precious novelette, I’ll give it one more read through and submit it, two days ahead of schedule. Part of me feels elated. But, can you believe that I also feel just a little bit bereft?
This project has been part of my life for a very long time. It’s been my constant companion. At night when I couldn’t sleep, I checked in with my characters. And I’m not ashamed to admit that pressing that submit button tomorrow will feel a little bit like saying the final goodbye to old friends. I’ll hand over something I created to strangers, not knowing if they’ll love and care for it the way I have.
Even through the joy and pride I feel for meeting such a far-reaching goal, I have a transition period ahead of me. And every transition hurts, even the good ones.
Have you felt this way after a big writing project? Here’s how to get through it.
#1 Take a Break
You worked hard on your writing project. No matter what ultimately happens to it—wether or not it meets your expectations or achieves your goals—the most important thing is that you finished it. Now’s the time to rest and revel in your success.
It may be tempting to jump into the next big thing, but you’ll write a better next project when you’re rested from this one. That’s because regular breaks can make your writing more productive, and that goes double for the mini vacations between big writing marathons. That makes this time of rest essential.
So journal about what you learned. Tell yourself you were amazing. Catch up on sleep and time with the people you care about. Most of all, think about how hard you worked and how it all paid off in the end. It will restore the energy and excitement you’ll need for your next big thing.
#2 Nurture Yourself
I find myself asking, “what do I do now?” And even “who am I without this project?”
That may sound melodramatic, which makes it tempting to dismiss the feelings as silly. If you feel that too, give yourself permission to acknowledge your feelings without judgement. You spent so much time with this project. And if it’s a story you wrote, you spent a lot of time with the characters you may now feel attached to. It’s okay to feel sadness and loss even in the face of success.
So take the time to sit those feelings, both good and bad. And nurture yourself as you do. Dance with your headphones on (the music will sound better than usual now that you’re unburdened). Get a pedicure. Catch up on your reading list. Hit the clubs. Whatever unwinds you, now’s the time to indulge.
#3 Spring Clean Your Life
If you’re like me, a few other things got neglected as you finished this big project. That’s a good thing, because it means your focus was where it was supposed to be: on your writing project. But now it’s time to clear the cobwebs.
Your mind is used to working out solutions for one thing only. It could be awhile before it wants to or can focus on something else. The best way in my experience to handle this is to clean. But since you can’t get a scrub brush into your synapses, clean up your house instead.
Scrub the tub spotless. Dust the bookshelves. Clean the oven and that space under the range hood. Return the kitchen utensils to their proper places. Scan that stack of household papers waiting in the dusty Teavana bag.
Why does this work?
Ever notice how a clean home or office makes you more productive? When our environment is clean and organized, our minds feel clean and organized too. And it’s nice to have everything reset to default before you tackle the next big thing.
The big clean-and-reset period also creates trust. It’s easier to let the low priority things like dusting and filing go during project crunch time, because you know the time to catch up is just after the writing finish line.
#4 Choose Your Next Project
When you’re all rested and reset, it’s time to look at your project options.
Looking for a new project might feel disloyal to the old one. Or maybe you have so many things you want to do, and having too many choices makes it hard to choose. Don’t worry. You don’t have to commit to a project just yet. Take a look at your options. Which doors are open? Which idea pulls you the most? What do you most want to accomplish this year?
I keep a long list of future projects in an Evernote file. Having that file makes it easier to remember everything I want to do and prioritize them at a glance. If you have a list like this already, review it during this stage. If not, start one.
And if the idea of starting something new feels daunting, you may need a longer break. It won’t be long before the project you’re next meant for starts calling to you.
#5 Plan Your Next Project
Once you’ve settled on your project, plan it out before you jump in. This will get you warmed up and your subconscious churning in the background.
Ask yourself what you would do first in this project. What would you do last? Scroll through Pinterest for writing tips, check out online plot guides, or browse writing prompts. Whatever gets those cogs churning.
Pretty soon you’ll be working furiously in the trenches of your next writing project without a care.
So how do you take care of yourself between big writing projects? Tell me in the comments. And happy writing, making, and doing! Thank you for being a part of my journey <3
Here’s to many more completed writing projects for both of us.