Stepping Away From Your Writing

I don’t have a Twitter account. I’m barely on Facebook (and by that I mean, as I write this, I have a grand total of 31 friends). I started ignoring friend requests from loved ones because I didn’t want to disappoint them; I figured since I never post anything on Facebook, I’d have nothing to contribute to our Facebook relationship, and I don’t want to be a non-contributing friend.
I am wary of the immediacy of Twitter and Facebook. Writing off the cuff isn’t my strength; I don’t want to respond to something so quickly that I say something I might regret. Rather, I write to figure out how I feel about something (truly, sometimes it’s only after I’ve written it that I realize, “Yeah, that’s what I think…”). I like reading others’ opinions, but I don’t comment on other people’s blog posts as often as I could and probably should because: I don’t know my opinion on that yet. How might my writing be construed? What if I accidentally offend? And (heaven forbid) what if I’m insensitive and politically incorrect AND IT’S IN WRITING?
For me, the writing process—even when it’s casual—takes time. Not just time to write (I can do that fairly quickly). But time to step away.
In his book, On Writing, Stephen King writes about stepping away and taking a break after drafting a novel. He says, “How long you let your book rest—sort of like bread dough between kneading—is entirely up to you, but I think it should be a minimum of six weeks . . .
“With six weeks’ worth of recuperation time, you’ll also be able to see any glaring holes in the plot or character development . . . It’s amazing how some of these things can elude the writer while he or she is occupied with the daily work of composition.”
I love this. I love the comparison to bread dough rising. You have to leave bread dough alone in order for it to rise and turn out (and be delicious, in fact). I really believe the best thing you can do to a draft, immediately after writing it, is give it space and time.

Here’s another quote, still from Stephen King. Again, he recommends the six-week break:
“If you’ve never done it before, you’ll find reading your book over after a six-week layoff to be a strange, often exhilarating experience. It’s yours, you’ll recognize it as yours, even be able to remember what tune was on the stereo when you wrote certain lines, and yet it will also be like reading the work of someone else, a soul-twin, perhaps. This is the way it should be, the reason you waited. It’s always easier to kill someone else’s darlings than it is to kill your own.”
Amen, Stephen King! [There’s something I never thought I’d write!] I have experienced exactly what he describes—it’s fun, rereading your draft after time has passed. Brilliant things seem more brilliant. And the things that need to be fixed (those “darlings” that need to be killed) are more obvious when you’re not so emotionally attached to them.
I have been so excited by a draft, I have sent it to members of my writing group the minute I’ve finished it, only to wait for their input, only to not need that input because as the weeks have gone by (and after stepping away, myself) I’ve been able to do much of what I asked them to do, myself.
Don’t do that to your friends! Wait a while to reread and revise before sending them something. Send them your best work—for their lovely sakes (they are doing you a favor, after all, and you don’t want to waste their time), and for yours—if they have a better manuscript to work with, their experience will be more enjoyable, and their input even more valuable.

And in those six weeks you step away, you can bake some bread. And catch up on Facebook (that’s what I’m going to do).  I still might not post anything, but [after Thinking Through Our Fingers J] I might just go and friend some friends. . . .
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Emily Manwaring spent her childhood in Wales, her adolescence in Utah and the time since in England and New Hampshire respectively. She has a degree in English Literature from BYU and currently lives in Northern Utah with her husband and children.  She likes to sleep [mostly she just misses it], read, and write [this makes her sound very lazy].  She is currently working on a picture book series.

2 thoughts on “Stepping Away From Your Writing

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