Take rest; a field that has rested gives a beautiful crop. – Ovid
For the past two months, I’ve been deep in the harvest season of my writing. I’m working on a new novel, due to come out in early summer 2022, and after all of the planning and brainstorming and outlining, it finally came time to write the thing.
For me, outlining is an intense, laborious process that takes a couple of months, because I plan out every single scene that will appear in the story. But the truly heavy-lift comes when it’s time to bang out the first draft. Because I really do bang it out. I sit down at my desk and write a couple of thousand words a day—usually two scenes—every day until it’s done.
I find this very, very tiring.
Farmers often let a plowed field lie fallow, or unplanted, for a growing season after several years of crops. (This advice is even given in the Torah and Old Testament.) This is to give the field a chance to restore its organic matter. The natural resting cycle makes it harder for pests and microorganisms to take root because it disturbs their life cycle. To have a truly productive field long-term, this period of rest is essential.
Writers and artists are often under intense pressure to be “productive”. I saw this in my students, who wanted at all costs to produce manuscript pages at a regular, predictable clip. But that isn’t always beneficial, or even possible. There are times when rest is the best thing you can do, to give your mind a chance to rebuild its organic, healthy network of imagination.
It’s Okay To Rest
If you’re in a fallow period, that doesn’t have to mean that you stop writing. Instead, it means that you stop producing. Take your expectations way down and spend time in creative play: experiment with new styles, situations, voices, and ideas. Don’t worry about where your ideas are going, simply let the universe surprise you.