Imagine you’re at a gourmet, five course meal. Between each portion you’re encouraged to enjoy some bread with oil–but you don’t want to eat too much of it and spoil your appetite. Except, if you don’t eat the bread, your appreciation of the next course could be spoiled by the lingering taste of the previous dish.

Imagine you’re at a lovely wine tasting. The winery produces an excellent wine, with several varieties. You want to try them all while you have the chance–what if you miss tasting the one that’s destined to be your favorite? But one flavor blends into the next unless you take a moment between samples to cleanse your palate. So you sniff a tiny cup of coffee beans before tasting the next type of wine.

Now, think of your writing. You’ve finished your story! It’s time for you to let it rest and move on to something else. You might be tempted to rush right into the next project. Or, if you find you can’t switch gears that quickly, you might feel guilty or lazy or worried there’s something wrong with you. 
But all you need is some time to cleanse your palate. 
Take a breather.
Refresh and renew.
Then, you can dive into the new project with all your senses, all your creative efforts focused on the NOW.
Write. Cleanse your palate. Write some more. 
It’s a formula that’s sure to see you over many a bridge between one story and the next. 
Do you “cleanse your palate”? What do you like to do to help you cross that bridge from one story to another?


*p.s. I have decided (Tuesday night) that I am hardcore NiNoWriMo-ing this month. I’m going to write an 80K YA sci fi this month. Wanna join me? My Twitter is ali_cross and the handle is #NiNoWriMo!*
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19 Comments

19 Comments on the value of rest in writing

  1. Pk Hrezo
    August 3, 2011 at 12:43 pm (6 years ago)

    Good for you! Wish I could buckle down and write this month, but um, nope.. not gonna happen. 🙁
    Awesome analogy to food. I always have to give my brain a rest for a couple months before diving into a new story. That usually does the trick for me. 🙂

    Reply
  2. Stephanie McGee
    August 3, 2011 at 12:57 pm (6 years ago)

    My ideas usually have to simmer for a while. I’ll tinker with them and such but there’ll be spans where I’m not writing or revising. Sometimes I’ll get a short story idea and write that or I’ll tinker with one of the unfinished short stories sitting on my hard drive. But when that lightning strikes and I have an idea that I’m super-excited about, come hell or high water I’ll be working on that one. My books usually involve quite a lot of world-building before I can even start writing so that’s where I get the most “palate cleansing” I suppose, when I’m creating like that and getting immersed in what I’m doing.

    As for the writing, I’m really going to push myself to finish this book this month.

    Reply
  3. Matthew MacNish
    August 3, 2011 at 1:05 pm (6 years ago)

    Great analogy! Now I want some pickled ginger.

    Reply
  4. Teri Anne Stanley
    August 3, 2011 at 2:23 pm (6 years ago)

    Oh, so I’m supposed to finish something before I rest? Dang. Here I thought I should maybe take a week or two off between 500 word marathons. Sigh.

    Reply
  5. jacqulinecarrera
    August 3, 2011 at 3:33 pm (6 years ago)

    Great analogy, Ali! I “cleanse my palate” between novels by catching up on my reading. There always seems to be a mountain of books waiting for me when I finish a novel, especially this past year with Borders going out of business. I swear, I lose $50 every time I drive past one and a small pile of books materialize in my car.

    Jacquline Carrera @ Adventures in Writerland

    Reply
  6. kitapita1227
    August 3, 2011 at 4:16 pm (6 years ago)

    I love the comparison between the courses of a meal and writing a novel! Love the blog!

    Reply
  7. Carol Riggs
    August 3, 2011 at 4:46 pm (6 years ago)

    This fits so well with writing–I rest by doing some reading “research” and diving into some other YA books! Which I’m doing now, reading MATCHED by Ally Condie. 🙂

    Reply
  8. Jess
    August 3, 2011 at 5:44 pm (6 years ago)

    I am still working on my first novel, but I have a feeling that to ‘cleanse my palate’ that I will read a lot more than I do now. I always seem to find good ideas from the books and stories I love.

    Reply
  9. Alex J. Cavanaugh
    August 3, 2011 at 6:43 pm (6 years ago)

    Since I’m stuck for ideas at the moment, I guess I’m taking a break.

    Reply
  10. Krispy
    August 3, 2011 at 7:54 pm (6 years ago)

    You speak with wisdom! It’s the same with reading books for me. When I can, I like to stop for a day or so before starting the next book just so I can stop to process everything and prepare my brain to switch gears.

    I hear you on the importance of breaks!

    As for Tuesdays, I’m doing Camp NaNoWriMo, so I’ll be endeavoring to work a lot too this month! 🙂

    Reply
  11. nutschell
    August 3, 2011 at 8:12 pm (6 years ago)

    i’m cleansing my palate right now. Setting aside my MG book and letting it marinade. But since I need to keep on doing soemthing–I’m currently working on my new YA story. 😛
    nutschell
    http://www.thewritingnut.com

    Reply
  12. Angie
    August 3, 2011 at 8:48 pm (6 years ago)

    I like to read. I’m not sure if that’s the best palate cleanser or not. But I read much faster between projects than during projects.

    Reply
  13. kmckendry
    August 3, 2011 at 11:54 pm (6 years ago)

    I had to cleanse my blogging palate last month. I was too bogged down by life and my creative juices stopped flowing. But now I feel reenergized! Good luck on your nanowrimo project!

    Reply
  14. dellgirl
    August 4, 2011 at 6:51 am (6 years ago)

    Beautiful analogy, and so true. We miss out when we don’t take the time to cleanse the palate properly. I usually take a non-writing break to cross the bridge, do one of my many other crafty projects.

    Reply
  15. Elana Johnson
    August 4, 2011 at 3:04 pm (6 years ago)

    I don’t cleanse, so much as wallow. I usually only write if I have some sort of panic attack and need to get something on the page, stat. Or a deadline.

    And look at you! Writing 80K this month?? Awesome!

    Reply
  16. Maeve Frazier
    August 4, 2011 at 10:15 pm (6 years ago)

    Great analogy! I switch it up when I take a break. Anything to take my mind away from it for awhile.

    Reply
  17. Gina Blechman
    August 5, 2011 at 9:15 pm (6 years ago)

    Hmm…I don’t know if I have just one palate cleanser in this case. Usually it goes something like this.

    “Brain, what do you want?”
    “I’m dead.”
    “I know Brain. But what can I DO for you?”
    *Brain answers one of the following: “TV/Baking/Movies/Songwriting/Reading/Writing/Blogging”
    “Okay, Brain. Whatever floats your boat.”

    <3 Gina Blechman
    <3 Gina Blechman

    Reply
  18. L.T. Elliot
    August 7, 2011 at 5:55 am (6 years ago)

    This is something I’m struggling with. My head’s still in “another game” and I’m trying to get into a new one. I think part of the problem is that I don’t know these new characters as well. Oh well. Back to work, right?

    Reply
  19. Brianna
    August 9, 2011 at 3:07 pm (6 years ago)

    Great advice, ali! I love the metaphor!

    Reply

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