1. Read! Read, read and read. Read YA. Read literary fiction. Read picture books. Read non-fiction. Learn about whatever random thing takes your fancy: volcanoes! Hat making! Existentialism! Orang-utans! Psychopaths! After all, you never know. You could very well end up writing a book about a hat making psychopath one day. Cultivate that library of random but fascinating things inside your head.
2. Get outside. Wander round your neighbourhood. Find a street you’ve never visited before and imagine the lives of the people who live on it. Catch a crowded bus and eavesdrop on the passengers around you. And go find some nature. (Hint: nature usually contains green stuff, like trees and grass.)
3. Spend time with friends and family and loved ones. You know, those people you neglect when you’re in the throes of working on something. Track down the people you love talking with most and hang out with them.
4. Write as often as you can. Not writing a novel doesn’t necessarily have to mean not writing at all. In fact for some of us – the ones who are even crazier when we’re not writing than when we are – it really, really shouldn’t mean not writing at all. Experiment. Try writing short stories, poetry, blog posts. Try keeping a journal. Write a letter to a friend who lives far away. Have a notebook next to your bed so you can write down the weird thoughts that come into your head late at night and first thing in the morning. If any new ideas turn up, play around with them and don’t pressure them to turn into anything too quickly.
5. Avoid the angst machine. The angst machine is that thing where it gets very late at night on a day when you haven’t done anything much, and you just so happen to be on the internet, and then you read someone’s blog post about how they’re working on forty different projects and writing ninety million words a day, and then you start telling yourself off for not getting anything done, and that tomorrow you have to do something about all this. And then tomorrow comes and you haven’t slept well and your brain feels all fuzzy, and you don’t do anything much, and it gets very late at night, and you just so happen to be on the internet, and so on. It’s very easy to get caught up in the angst machine when you don’t have a current project. Instead, be grateful. This time right now you’re not writing, just living, is just as valuable as the time when you’re at your most productive. Enjoy it while it lasts.
What do you do when you’re between projects?