How to Make the Most of Time Away From Your Writing Desk

How to make the most of time away from your writing desk

The life of a writer is peppered with milestones. Most are small, intimate moments, like finishing a first draft, outlining a memoir, or finding an agent. Sometimes, there are occasions suited for more public celebration, like publications of any sort, graduations, and awards. 

But what happens in-between a mundane moment like submitting poems to literary magazines and an accomplishment like signing the contract of your first book deal?

As much time as we devote to writing, we also spend many hours away from our writing desk. This is both a necessity for our wellbeing, and the responsibilities of our life that pull us from the page, like our day jobs, families, or volunteer commitments.

Writing, of course, involves a lot more than typing. And it's often a process of waiting for the next thing to happen while we go about our lives. 

This muddled, middle ground can be an uncomfortable space to be. Perhaps you've finished one project and are determining the next course of action. Or you've submitted an article to a website and are trying to stop yourself from constantly checking your email. We wait, we write, we wait some more.

So, what's a writer to do? 

In The In-Between by Jeff Goins, there are a few suggestions. His thesis is simple: We spend most of our life waiting, so it's time to start living for those moments instead of the next big thing. 

One sentence, in particular, was brief and profound.

In the waiting, we become.
— Jeff Goins


When you're restless, it's hard to turn off the noise in your head and heart that's ready for the next adventure, next job, next story, but life is full of waiting.

Think about a typical day. You wait for the tea kettle to boil, wait at a traffic light, wait for meeting that's running late, wait in line at the grocery store.

@@Remember this: being present doesn't mean the next big thing isn't around the corner.@@

Graduations, marriages, births, moves, job transitionsThese are milestones, and we're bound to experience a few of them over our lifetime. It's just that life is made up of far less glamorous moments.

It might feel mundane, boring, or even unproductive, but once we start seeing the beauty and power in life's smallest moments, we'll be more prepared when the big ones roll in. 

Incidentally, this also involves stepping away from your computer, leaving behind your writing desk, and giving your mind some space.

There are many instances when projects end and it takes weeks or months for another to begin. Maybe you're living in that space right now, but I think there is some good here. Projects ebb and flow because we can't sustain a constant flow of creativity. Our soul needs a short break before moving on to the next project, so it's better to embrace these moments than push them away. 

Today, if you're waiting for anything at all, here are five ways to pass the time.

What to do in the in-between

1. Read

Reading is one of the best ways to counteract the down time we have between projects. It engages your imagination, exposes you to new ideas, and will feel restorative.

2. Focus on your personal life

Coordinate a dinner with friends or a weekend getaway with your spouse. Take your kids to a museum. Call your grandparents. Do things. Take your mind off what you're waiting for by focusing on what really matters.

3. Relax

In the same way spending time with friends and family is restorative to your spirit, relaxing (in the form of spa treatments, yoga, or hikes) will help your body recharge, too. 

4. Help someone else

Turn your attention outward and reach out to others. Volunteer to help in your son's classroom, take a meal to an overwhelmed friend, or clean out your bookshelves and donate old titles to your local library.

5. Trust the process

Perhaps the hardest task of all, but deep down, you have to believe it will all work out. The end result might look differently than you had planned, but life will keep moving forward, that much is certain. Trust that the waiting, as hard as it is, will improve the outcome. Trust that when you return to your writing desk, you'll be inspired.