Hey, look! I’m not dead after all. I’ve been quite sick for the last 8 months or so, but I seem to be getting a little better finally, so I’m back. I actually was going to write something about life getting in the way, but Rosalyn’s already done that. Thanks, Rosalyn
So, instead, I will talk about walking away from your writing for a time.
Sometimes we need to just back away from something to see it more clearly. This is definitely true with writing. Any writing… a letter, an essay, fiction. The best thing to do is take a day or two minimum away from it, so when we can go back to it, we can see it with fresh eyes.
Remember in school when we’d write essays the night before (or morning when) it was due. It seemed pretty coherent and maybe even brilliant at the time (those tired midnight brain cells lie to us, plain and simple). After a while, though, none of the essay really made sense anymore; it was just a bunch of words, often words we had memorized from going over them so often. Please tell me I’m not the only one who has experienced this.
When I’d get one of those essays back and reread it, I’d wince a little. How did I not see that glaring typo? And this one part made no sense at all! Why didn’t I catch that? If I’d been smart, I’d have written the first or even last draft a few days before and then left it completely alone for at least a day, hopefully a whole week , and then read it again. Whatever muck was in my brain when I first wrote it would have settled a bit, so I could see the essay a little more objectively.
So, back to being gone for months. I didn’t work on my novel the whole time. I could lament the time lost, but the one good thing is that when I got back to it recently, I could totally see what I needed to do to fix it. I’ve been pretty stuck on my opening chapters since I started this thing years ago, because something just wasn’t right. I tried several ways to fix it last year, but I didn’t feel settled about it. When I picked it up this month, I knew exactly what to do as soon as I read through it. I needed to seriously rearrange some things, but I knew once I did, it would be in the order it needed to be. Before, I was so stuck on the order it already was in, I couldn’t see another way. Now I can.
I decided, through this experience, that the longer the piece of writing, the more time I need away from it, since there is more information to deal with, more muck that needs to settle. I don’t think it necessarily takes 6+ months to do this, but it might in some cases. In the end, if it gives me a better story, then that is time well-spent (or not spent, depending on how you want to look at it.