The Mulling-it-over Period: Writing Breaks

If a tree falls in a forest and nobody sees it, does it make a sound?

Those sorts of questions always irritated me as a kid on the playground. That one and the chicken/egg question would have me banging my head against hard surfaces and crying “who cares?” in a high, whiny voice. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve made my peace with the tree and the chicken/egg. However, they were replaced with a new Question to Irritate:

If you’re a writer, then why aren’t you writing all the time?

The truth is of course, that there is no way possible to write 365 days a year nonstop and still have a life worth living. Face it, if you are writing all day every day, then there is something wrong. First, you are overweight (or underweight) have no social life, and probably need sleep ASAP. Second, that just not how writing works. There are times when you really are sitting down for days, weeks, maybe even months on end, have no social life, severe health fluctuations, and no need to wash the bedsheets. But there is that equally important time where your hands aren’t actively making words, but your mind is. This usually happens before the story begins, but also periodically while the story is progressing.

These in-production pauses are my mulling-it-over periods. They are times where I step back from my WIP for a day, a week, or a month, and try to either work out kinks, formulate the next stage, or perhaps even reformulate the story’s ultimate destination. These breaks are important to me because they often help me think of a way to change this or that before I’ve written it, saving editing time later. Also, when I go back, I can have a fresh perspective; yes, that feeling like this character needs to be tweaked wasn’t off, and this portion of the story is dragging a bit, so let’s find a way to speed it up. In that interim time, I’ll watch a movie, read some books, and  (recently) attempt to play video games.

So no, I’m not writing, but I’m still in the midst of the writing process, okay?

The worst of it is, the one who asks me this question the most is myself. While it is crucial to be disciplined and try to stick to whatever writing regimen works for you, it’s important not to beat yourself up if you find that the story might actually come together better if you just play with it mentally while occupying yourself with something else for a little while.

Just remember to make sure that it sticks to mulling-it-over, and doesn’t develop into just-plain-lazy.

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Catherine Johnson
    Sep 27, 2011 @ 23:07:27

    I so needed to hear this, I have a major problem with mine, but the first 500 words are being critiqued by an agent and the rest is with CPs so I might as well concentrate on other writing projects and by the time the feedback comes, I might have solved the problem anyway. Great post!


  2. nkeda14
    Sep 27, 2011 @ 23:50:48

    I’m in said stage right now… ugh! I’m onto draft two and have just had to take a breather for fear of exploding. Keep writing posts Jen, I need them to get through D2 of my WIP!


  3. Patrick
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 04:15:33

    I know its been a while since you have mentioned it are you still planning to write historical fiction?


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