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Guest Post: How Not to Spend Your Downtime by Erica Bauman

Today we're happy to welcome writer Erica Bauman. 

By Alex Jones, via Unsplash
This past September I celebrated a landmark: after a year of writing and editing and revising, I finally had a draft of my manuscript that I felt enough confidence in to give to my beta readers. It was something that I had been looking forward to for months because, besides having a weird sadomasochistic love of critiques, I would be getting a break from the mad all-writing, all-the-time pace I had put myself through.

So on August 31st, I emailed out the manuscript and went to bed, blissfully unaware of what was ahead. I woke up on September 1st to more free time than I had known in months, and no idea what to do with it.

I got a bit overwhelmed by all the possibilities (I could do anything with my free time). I could see my friends and family. I could watch all those movies I had missed. I could finally crawl out of the butt-shaped crater in my couch.

And I did. And it was great.

But after all that, I still had a more free time than I was used to. So I did some things that, well, I’m not proud of. And probably were not the smartest use of my time. So I’ve written them all down (and am sharing them with the internet), so that the next time I have a break, I (and hopefully, you) know exactly what not to do.

And, if I ever do this again, now the entire internet can say “I told you so.”

Don’t fall back into bad habits. For me, that means binge watching TV shows on Netflix. And I’m not talking about maybe a few episodes here and there. I mean hardcore, watching-an-entire-series-in-a-week binge watching. But then you realize that you haven’t left your couch for a whole weekend, which really isn’t that much different from when you were writing all the time, except less productive. And when you check your phone and discover that no one was worried when they didn’t hear from you for the past couple days, you naturally start to think about how small your place actually is in the universe. You try to calculate how many days you can go before your loved ones start to worry about your corpse being eaten by your cat. The answer always ends up being “after your face has been chewed off”, which really isn’t the mindset you thought you’d end up in when you started that Doctor Who marathon. Binge watching Netflix leads to some really dark thoughts.

Don’t stalk your beta readers. I had specifically asked mine not to talk about the manuscript. So I’m not sure why I expected them to write about it on the internet. I guess I had secretly wished that the manuscript would be so good that they couldn’t contain themselves and completely disregard that rule. I would scroll through Facebook and Twitter, certain that I would see some mention on my newsfeed. A simple “Reading a great book ;)” status, or even a glowing review on the book’s nonexistent Goodreads page. This usually ends in disappointment and searching for cupcake recipes on Pinterest.

Don’t get a new piercing. Or do. Totally your call. Just, don’t forget where it is before you accidentally hit it for the fiftieth time. Your surprisingly low pain threshold will thank you.

Don’t read books in your genre. It’ll seem like a good idea. You have all this free time to read, why not see what other authors are doing. But, unless you are unwaveringly confident, it will only drive you nuts. You’ll finish a book, crawl back into bed, and call all your beta readers in a panic, telling them to stop reading right now. Instead, spend the time reading that fantasy novel your friend recommended. Or that book you got as a present ages ago and still haven’t gotten around to reading. Or that mystery that you’re pretty sure is going to give you horrific nightmares, but you can’t help yourself because you just want to know who the killer is. Pick something totally different and out there, because your brain needs a vacation.

Don’t stop writing. Trust me, you’ll want to. Your brain will be exhausted and you’ll want to take a short break and relax. But it’s the same as taking a break from exercising. Sure, you’ll get to wear sweatpants and curl up on the couch, but before you know it the floor is littered with the corpses of empty Ben & Jerry cartons and you get winded just walking to the bathroom. I’m not saying you have to keep up the same strict writing pace, take a day or a weekend to relax. Just don’t go cold turkey, because it’ll just be that much harder when you get your critiques back and have to start editing. So, instead, spend the month writing a short story, or jotting down every idea that pops into your head. Try something new and different, or start plotting out your next project.

No matter what you end up doing during your down time, try to relax and take your mind off your current project. You’ve worked hard. Now enjoy your break.


Erica Bauman is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University’s Writing Seminars program. She currently lives in New York City where she writes, drinks too much coffee, and eats more junk food than she probably should. She can be found at and @Erica_Bauman.

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Kate Hart

Kate is the author of After the Fall, coming January 24, 2017 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. A former teacher and grant writer, she now owns a treehouse-building business in the Ozarks and hosts the Badass Ladies You Should Know interview series.

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  1. Haha, funny (and wise) advice! Now, what is this "free time" thing you mention? :)


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Item Reviewed: Guest Post: How Not to Spend Your Downtime by Erica Bauman Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kate Hart