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The In-Between Stages of Writing

Photo by Nolan Issac on Unsplash

There are so many in-between phases in the writing life.

There’s the time before you begin writing a story, but have already felt the beginnings of a story simmering inside you.

The time between finishing a draft and revising it.

The time between finishing that draft and revising it yet again. (Repeat as necessary.)

The time between finishing a story and starting a new one.

What do you do with that in-between time? I’ve discovered this must be what non-writers call hobbies. Things that bring you joy, that you do purely for fun and pleasure. Which isn’t to say that writing is not something that brings me joy or that brings me pleasure…it’s just that I don’t quite see it as a hobby so much as a part of my life. Like breathing and reading.

I’m learning that the most nurturing hobbies for me are the ones that allow me to turn off my writer’s brain for a bit. Walking through my house the other day, I realized something.

I’ve become a writer who refurbishes her furniture during her in-between phases. A writer who turns her closet into a reading nook, or decides to repaint and redecorate the guest room. Maybe it’s because my sign is Cancer—we’re famous for tending to our homes and shelters. Or maybe it’s because so much of it is hands-on and repetitive; creative, but not high-pressure. No worrying about character development or a plot over here.

Currently, I’ve begun sanding the wooden TV unit in my living room, which was painted bright red and which I now want to paint (shudder) white. Which means, it’s a lot of work. Which means I thought it’d take me a weekend and here I am, going on the fourth week. Which means, every day or so I sand down one small part: one drawer, one corner.

It’s a much bigger project than I ever anticipated. The only way I’m going to finish it is if I break it down into small sections rather than expecting to do it all in one go.

Just the other day, I asked my husband if he thought it’d matter if I took a couple of shortcuts.

It might end up being more work in the long run, he said, if you’re hoping to get it right.

So yeah… during my in-between phases of writing, I don’t write. Unsuspecting to me, I’m still practicing the discipline it takes, in one form or another. I’m still deriving the most joy from the process: the hard, necessary work, the hard lessons learned when I try to do things the easy way. Most rewarding of all, there’s a finished product that in the (very, very) end, I can look at and say, “I did that.”

What are you non-writing related hobbies? How do you they inform your writing process, if at all?


About Natalia Sylvester

Born in Lima, Peru, Natalia Sylvester came to the U.S. at age four. A former magazine editor, Natalia now works as a freelance writer in Austin, Texas and is a faculty member of the low-res MFA program at Regis University. Her articles have appeared in Latina Magazine, Writer’s Digest, The Writer, and NBCLatino.com. She is the author of Chasing the Sun, named the Best Debut Book of 2014 by Latinidad and chosen as a Book of the Month by the National Latino Book Club. Her second novel, Everyone Knows You Go Home, is forthcoming from Little A in 2018.

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About Mary Ellen Bellusci

Mary Ellen Bellusci is a longtime resident of Baltimore, Maryland... A foodie, traveler, writer, and pursuer of happiness.