Monday, August 15, 2011

4 Steps for a Fabulous Fallow Time

Each step in a book requires a different set of skills, and for me, completing a project--performing the final round of revisions and polishing the proposal--demands the most. Just over a week ago, I finished a much-loved book. The exhilaration, I did it! I gave this book everything I have, and it's the best I could do, soon gave way to exhaustion. I knew a fallow time was in order.

4 Steps for a Fabulous Fallow Time

Step 1: Get Away (if only to your bedroom)

We spent most of last week tent camping in gorgeous Holland, Michigan near the shores of Lake Michigan. Camping takes more work than a hotel, but I find it nurturing to the soul. We spent almost all of our time outdoors, either on the beach, hiking, or sitting by a campfire. Our meals were simple. We happily lived without television, computers, and other technical gadgets. We did NOT live without coffee, though. That would be cruel. :)

Step 2: Rest

One thing I noticed from day one was how physically tired I was. Non-writers may not realize how draining it is to pour every iota of brain power into honing a book. The cool, fresh night air lulled me into a deep sleep, and during the day I fought to stay awake in the sun's warm embrace as we listened to the rhythm of the waves.

Step 3: Zone Out and Snack

I leafed through one magazine and read one book (which you will be hearing all about on Wednesday because it was awesome!!). My brain was too tired to read more than that. And after we returned home on Friday, I spent most of the weekend reclining on the couch, watching pre-season football and snacking on bagel chips and chocolate-covered raisins. For the record, I'm pumped about the Lions and sporting at least three extra pounds.

Step 4: Be Productive in Other Areas Until Your Creativity is Primed

Just as God commanded us to rest on the seventh day, He also commanded us to let our land lie unplowed and unused every seventh year. As a writer, I know the necessity, the value, in giving myself time off between projects. I will rest more, read more, spend time on the other needs of my business, such as continuing the design of my new website and fleshing out plot points for potential books. Regular exercise and a lighter diet will be my friends. And I'll do a big cannonball of joy back into the social media pool--I love interacting with everyone! Slowly, the tiredness will ebb, and ideas will pelt me until I'm ready to plunge into my next project.

Do you take time off between projects? What are your tips for a successful fallow time?

Have a magnificent Monday!


  1. Jill, your vacation sounds wonderful! Congrats on getting your book done--that's a major accomplishment. I'm in the midst of editing right now and boy is it a lot of work!

    Breaks are definitely needed in this business to recharge and soak in new fuel. Enjoy!

  2. Summers are my break. I revise a bit and plot. But I work much harder and get a lot more done during the school year.

  3. I'm so glad you had this time away time!

    It helps when I am surrounded by aesthetic beauty. That sharpens my vision and clears out the cobwebs.

    ~ Wendy

  4. Good morning!

    Eileen: Thank you! And yay for you on editing! I'm so glad it is you and not me! :)

    Laura: One of the perks of being a writer--making our schedules work for us. I am more productive during the school year too.

    Wendy: Same here--beauty and time to soak it in make all the difference.

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  5. Welcome back, Jill! I missed your posts!

    Your trip sounds lovely...Camping is alot of work, but such special bonding time for families (and kudos to you for going "unplugged.")

    When I finish a writing project, I do reward myself in some small way. It's so important we give ourselves the time necessary to regroup--that's probably the biggest gift to myself of all.

    (And I couldn't have gone without my coffee either...)

  6. Your vacation sounds amazing. Good for you, getting some much needed rest. It's amazing how much finishing a book can take out of it. When I completed the draft of Light and Dark, I went from exhilarated to exhausted in about a minute, lol. Thankfully a vacation recharged me.

    Welcome back!

  7. I enjoy each visit to your fine site, along with all your practical tips! Thank you!

  8. Kudos on finishing your book, Jill. How neat that you were able to get away afterward and enjoy a much-needed and well-deserved respite.

  9. Great photos, Jill!! I love Lake Michigan!! Congrats on finishing your book!!

  10. Cynthia: Aw, thanks! I've missed yours too--but that's only because I've been MIA around the blogosphere. Looking forward to remedying that! And I agree. Time off is the most generous thing we can give to ourselves.

    Stacy: Same here! Exhilarated to exhausted sums it up. I'm still not 100% but time will help!

    Richard: Thanks for the kind words--they mean so much to me.

    Keli: Thanks! And the timing couldn't have been better. It felt so good to just veg out and not think about anything but the basics, you know?

    Paul: I love Lake Michigan too! We would have loved to stay an extra few days, but we couldn't. It was gorgeous!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  11. Sounds like it was an awesome trip. I've camped by Lake Michigan before too.

    I do take a rest between need that rest so you can be fresh for the next project.

    Glad you had a nice down time.

  12. Completely agree about "fallow time." Sounds like yours was fabulous. Nathan Bransford blogged about the healthy need for "distractions" to keep his writer brain from becoming overloaded and unproductive. I concur!

  13. I try to take "fallow" time between different spots in my book. Draft #1 - break - Edit - break - Reread/Redit - break - Final Edit - break. Even if the break is just a day or a week, it's refreshing to regenerate. :)

  14. Hi, Jill! Glad you're back, and congrats on finishing your project! Let us know how it turns out. I know what you mean about decompressing - summer is great for that, and our family vacation helped me a lot.

    Our oldest heads off to his first year of college in a few days, so my priority has been family right now. I'm with Laura about being more writerly during the school year. I'll be rarin' to go!

  15. Jill, camping IS a lot of work, I know! But it's so worth it, especially that quality time with family. Your photos are beautiful, and it sounds like you all had a great time.

    I'm more relaxed now about giving myself the time to just chill, whether it's between projects, drafts, or just because I'm feeling burnt out.

  16. Great thoughts, Jill! It's SO nice to take that break between projects. Especially when we've poured so much into the project. :)

  17. Wonderful breakdown of restoring the creative process. Your photos are gorgeous. So glad you had a terrific time.

    I always take breaks between projects. I'll have my second book finished and off to my agent by the end of the week, so I can focus on helping my mom recover from her triple bypass next Friday.

    You're so right about how emotionally draining writing can be.

  18. It definitely is emotionally and physically draining to pour everything into a project- but what a feeling of exhilaration to be done! I don't usually take a purposeful, "planned" break between projects, but God seems to know exactly how to force me into one. I'm all about giving the brain some free time to just veg-out. I'm more inclined to find inspiration during those times. And I'm with you on snacking- chocolate always helps! :)

  19. Time off between projects is a must for me. I need a break after months of non-stop writing.

  20. Yeah, I always take a break from writing when I need to. Glad you had a great vacation, Jill.

  21. Hooray for finishing another book! And I love the west coast of Michigan...beautiful!

  22. Grew up on the west coast of MI,
    what beautiful memories.

  23. Loree: Lake Michigan is my favorite camping spot! And I'm with you--rest is vital between projects!

    Patrice: So true! It's so easy to feel guilty for watching a movie or whatever instead of writing, but sometimes it's necessary!

    Jaime: Good advice. I take a bit of time off between stages too, and it helps me so much!

    K.B.: Wow, congrats! I'm sure it will be an adjustment, having one off to college. If you need extra virtual hugs, let me know!

    Julie: I heated water in my coffee maker every time I wanted to do dishes. Tent camping brings unique challenges... :) And I'm glad you're relaxed about taking time off. I'm getting better about it!

    Katie: Sometimes we really don't have a choice. I was (and still am!) not mentally ready to dive into something new!

    Lisa: Congrats on getting book 2 out the door! But I'm sorry about your mom. I'm glad you'll be there for her. Praying for you and her.

    Jennifer: Oh yeah. God leads us where we need to be whether we want it or not!

    Susan: Same here. I'm no fun to be around if I don't take time off!

    Heather: Good for you! I'm trying to do the same!

    Sarah: THanks! And I love Lake Michigan. I didn't want to leave!

    Linda: Lucky you! The west coast of MI is so gorgeous. We're trying to visit a new spot each year. Holland has a special place in our hearts, though. We love it!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  24. I like to watch movies or read books. I want to be creative with art on my down time, but haven't done so yet. There's always that small element of "failure." What if it turns out to be a mess? I know, so what? I just need to try it.

  25. I always look forward to down time between books. It's great to recharge before diving in again. I'm looking forward to down time in October.


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