There is no better feeling than writing that last word. Or hitting submit. Sending that last email. Crossing it off your list.
Finishing a writing project, big or small, is a huge accomplishment. And even if you’re convinced you hate every single word of the thing you’ve just completed (it happens), there’s at least a little bit of relief and the desire to celebrate mixed in there.
YES! YOU DID IT! YOU’RE DONE!!
Some writers have absolutely no problem kicking back, turning on the TV and letting themselves completely decompress. Writing is hard work both mentally and physically. Even long term projects completed in small segments over multiple weeks or even months have the power to completely drain your sanity and energy levels after you’re finally allowed to put them behind you.
Which is exactly why it is NOT a good idea to immediately start on a new project.
If you’ve done this before, don’t feel guilty. Many of us have the same completely justifiable fear that if we don’t either write down or start working on a new idea right after we finish the old one, we’re going to forget about it, or never start it.
This is why I’m here to help you avoid this habit next time you’re in this situation.
What’s the big deal, though? What’s so bad about starting something new? It’s kind of like celebrating being done with something old, right? It’s PRODUCTIVE. It FEELS NICE. It’s probably also going to KILL YOU.
OK, not really. But if you don’t give your brain and body a chance to breathe before you start overworking them again, you’re going to burn yourself out. As someone who has yet to learn not to keep doing this (sigh), I’m telling you, it’s NOT worth it. It’s not healthy to force your brain to jump that fast into something new. And your body, having been working so hard for so long, just wants you to curl up and avoid the outside world like the good old-fashioned introvert you are.
I’m not saying you have to wait long. Just one day. Day 1: finish writing your thing. Day 2: do nothing. Day 3: start writing things again.
Just take one day. One day to rest. One day to let your brain catch up. One day to be proud of what you’ve just accomplished. One day to let the new ideas (maybe) start pouring in.
Because I can almost guarantee it, start pouring in, they will. If not the day after, then the day after that. Believe it or not – just because you have new ideas doesn’t mean you immediately have to start working on them. I know it’s tempting. Oh, do I know.
I encourage you instead to jot new ideas down as they come – on a piece of paper; on your phone; speak them out loud in a voice recording if that’s what you prefer or need to do. Get them out of your head, save them, and then walk away.
Finish. Rest. Start again. Don’t forget the middle component holding the outer two pieces together. You want your brain to keep generating new ideas, not go completely dark because you haven’t given it enough time between tasks to recharge.
It might feel like a major struggle. That’s OK. it’s like eating healthier when all you want for every meal are Doritos. It’s preventative. Over time, eating better will make your life better, the same way letting your brain rest will make you more productive down the road.
I’ve started using food analogies, which either means I’m hungry or half brain dead. Or both. Work hard, and then GO REST. I plan on doing the same.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.