A few things happen when I finish a book. First, the champagne. Second, a day or so of rest. And then, on the third day, I start writing again.
I’m exhausted by this stage. My brain is alphabet soup, in no way fit for novel writing. But at the same time, I can’t not write. It’s a madness, writing. But the madness of not writing is worse.
There is a balance to be found between the need for rest and the need to write. And for me that balance lies in my “between books”. These are books written in an entirely different style than the book I’ve just completed. They’re often in a different tense or from an interesting viewpoint. They’re fun, uncomplicated things, and I sink into them like a hot bubble bath on a rainy night.
I know some writers who would be horrified by this concept. Words, to them, are sacred things. They’re precious, and shouldn’t be squandered. But to me these stories are absolutely necessary, and besides, there are no wasted words.
Perhaps I’ll never show these books (or portions of books as I don’t always reach the end before the next book calls) to my agent, perhaps I’ll never revise, shine them up to a publishable state, but they’re still teaching me something. Even as my brain rests, losing itself in a story it will never be troubled to fix, I’m gaining new skills.
And sometimes these books do become something. Sometimes I’ll steal a plot line, a character. One day maybe one of my between books will prove so enticing I’ll want to push through to the end and spend months polishing it up. But for now? They’re just for me.
I hold this same attitude about my non-writing life as well. Not all projects come to a satisfying conclusions. Not every endeavour works out. But they’re still important. They’ve still taught me something: about life, about hard work, about the person I want to be. I use them in stories, the emotions that come with failure and heartbreak, the people I meet. And I become stronger, disappointment by disappointment, unfinished tale by unfinished tale.
No wasted words. No wasted experiences. Just a long process of becoming. Just cycles of productivity and rest. Just a life fully lived.