Like all of my posts, this is just my personal observation, about my own writing and editing habits. But, I’ve found time and again that this particular habit of mine could be used by others.
As writers, many of us are used to creating on deadline. There are few greater reasons to finish a project than a circled date on the calendar. But I think that many of us also have a desire to have our work seen, read, and appreciated. That’s normal, right? What a lot of writers often do, though, is jump that gun, and publish (online, usually, but I’ve seen it happen in print, too) without really looking at what’s been written.
Take a note, fellows: Take a breath, put the manuscript (or article, or drabble, or blog post) aside, and just walk away. Not for always, not for forever, not to forget about it entirely. But put it away, for at least a day, before you press “Send” or “Publish” or “Okay.” And for your day of freedom from that manuscript, take a walk, play a game, whip up for yourself and your stud-muffin a big, home-cooked meal. Do something – anything – to get away from those words you’ve put down on paper. I guarantee that, when you do come back to it the next day, you’ll see it with fresh eyes.
Because that’s what’s really important: seeing your own work as everyone else will see it: new.
Our brains have a tendency to fill in the gaps when we’re writing and reading, especially our own work. We’ll auto-correct our own mistakes, if you will. Especially if that work is still actively bouncing around in our brains. But if we leave it alone for a while (at least overnight), when we come back to it, we catch all kinds of simple, stupid mistakes. Those mistakes often separate a gifted writer from a disciplined one.
I’ve had a lot of students bring me work that I know they finished in the last minutes before showing it to me. They’re not fooling anyone. The rush shows. So I tell them the exact same thing I’ve mentioned above: take a step back, leave it alone for a while, and then come back and read it with new eyes.
Now, I’m guilty of the rush job, myself. Whenever I finish a post or a chapter, I’m always chomping at the bit to get it seen. Because I want people to read. I want people to tell me what they think. I want the approval…! But I’ve learned that it’s better for me – and better for my readers – if I just relax and follow my own advice to my students:
Don’t rush it. Leave time to set the work aside, and come back to look at it later, when the mind’s recovered from all of those bouncing, beautiful words. Trust me. You’ll be doing yourself a favor.
Yup, I’m definitely guilty of that. I definitely do want to know if my writing’s worth the effort, so I know that I submit my stuff too early with all its glorious mistakes. While I’m in the process of writing a piece, and rewriting it (either in my head or on computer) I do indeed start to feel myself get tired of it. I get tired of the words before my eyes, the idea seemingly replaying in my brain with small alterations and just not moving forward from it. I realize now that I end up pushing it away, but over to online viewers where they can see all the junk left in.
And then I wonder, if I let it sit too long, will I ever want to go back to it? I guess if I really do, then I will. But at the same time, the self-put pressure of not getting my stuff seen starts to get to me. Not only do I have to deal with the strong desire to create something, I also have to deal with getting approval (or disapproval, not to sound too hopeful).
Without a doubt, the repetition of writing and editing a single scene is what kills me, and like my class essays, I end up not wanting to revise anything. I just want it done and over with, which shows what a terribly inexperienced noob I am at writing. Oh, and impatient! I’ve got a lot of growing to do! 🙂
You have hit the proverbial nail on the head. I have a scheduled time each day for writing and I will sometimes come back to a chapter three or four times after the muse wakes me in the night and tells me to change something that will make it more palatable for readers. I am always thinking about what the reader would think of my writing. Stepping away is a good exercise and really does work. Good post!
Thank you, Roger!
I usually have those late-night switches, too, which is part of what prompted me to put this one down. Even if it’s only a piece that’s 100 words long, I usually find setting it away for a while will help in the long run.
Thanks again for reading, and commenting!
Sometimes, it’s very hard to put the writing down and away for a while…but it truly does help me. Even with these blog posts, I usually write them several days in advance, and then schedule them to go up at a later date. And I almost always find something to change in the interim. 😀
Wow, that’s dedication to your craft!