Clearing the decks? All writers are sailors? No, not exactly. The metaphor is simply this: if you don't clear the decks from time to time you won't be able to see where you're sailing. And, if you can't see, you're liable to run aground.
Why the metaphor now? Because I've finished my first rough draft and am now "clearing the decks" before diving into the next draft (okay, enough sailing, water metaphors!). Why? Because if the decks are blocked by half-finished short stories or articles with an upcoming, looming due date then how can I turn all my attention to the rewrite? If my notes on the rewrite are scattered in this file and this other file, how can I be certain I'll find and more importantly USE my extensive rewriting notes?
So, there's been a flurry of organization and finishing up and submitting short projects. This helps me in another way--I've found that having writing "out there" submitted (and occasionally published, yay!) supports my rewriting. It's a reminder that finishing a writing project is possible. It's a boost to know I'm continuing to pursue my passion, any way I can. And, as the Muse on Inspired Day by Day mentioned in her post on How to Make Things Happen: Visualize, it's a positive visualization of success.
A pitfall--or reef to get hung up on (back to sailing images): clearing and organizing and "getting ready" forever or for so long you've stepped out of the current w.i.p. too far. So far all the energy goes out of the project. It can end up as a "drawer novel." Ugh. I set a time limit for the clearing up for this reason.
Do you go from one draft into another? If so, why? Or do you have a period in between? What works best for you in the long, long run of writing a major work?