Writing Tips

Writing Tip: STOP Writing

“Stop writing?!”

“But Kayla,” you may ask me, “how can you tell me to stop writing? Shouldn’t we keep writing? After all, we are writers! How can we be writers if we are not writing? How does stopping our writing actually help our writing? Isn’t that contradictory?”

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Now before you turn away from me and shake your head in disgust, hear me out.

I’m not saying that we should stop all writing. I am saying that you should stop working on the project you’re currently working on once you have finished it. For writers there is this huge urge that once we finally finish a project we automatically want to go back through, edit, and send it to a publisher. It’s just not realistic guys. In order for a work to be good you need to utilize the power of distance.

Now some of you may be wondering what the power of distances and others of you might have already heard of it. For those of you who are unfamiliar or need the refresher: The power of distance is, as it sounds, distancing yourself from your work after you have finished it.

Once you have finished a project you set it aside. If it’s on your computer, exit out of the file for a while (I know it’s scary but don’t worry it’ll still be there when you get back to it). If you’re writing in a notebook (hey kudos to you not a lot of people do that anymore),  close the notebook, put in a drawer and leave it alone. Give your work at least a couple of days if not weeks to rest and work on other projects in the meantime. Heck, go outside and see the sun once in a while (you know us writers are vitamin D deficient).

After a few days or a few weeks whatever you can manage, although longer is better, take your work out. The distance that you have given yourself and your writing will now do several things for you:

  • You will no longer be wrapped in the euphoria of finishing your project. As such, you will be able to remove your rose-colored glasses and look at your work for what it is: beautiful, but in serious need of some editing.
  • Due to the above, you will also be more willing to do what needs to be done, even if this means cutting out whole sections or chapters of your work.
  • You will gain a new and fresh perspective. I’m sure many of you college students out there know the feeling of turning in a paper, believing it to be 100% free of errors only to have it returned to you with red marks and think to yourself, “How did I miss that?” Do you know that when we read the same thing over and over, our brain will automatically fill in the gaps because it knows where we are going? That is why students often miss entire words in their essays, because their brain automatically assumes the words are there. By placing distance between your work and yourself, you give your brain a chance to restart and give your eyes a fresh chance to look at your material (making it easier to spot mistakes).

Try for yourself guys and let me know how it goes! Once you do finish a project and utilize the power of distance I encourage you to NOT EDIT, but rather, to Rewrite Instead.

Happy Writing Everyone!

 

106 thoughts on “Writing Tip: STOP Writing”

  1. I completely agree! Sometimes you are simply empty and forcing yourself to write when you can’t is NOT the solution. What really works for me, if I am still in the writing mood but simply can’t rite on one specific project right now, is to pick up another project. I have so many ideas for stories I want to tell and several word docs that I can pick up whenever I want that I have written down previosuly months (or sometimes even years) previously. I revisit them for a few hours (or days, depending on how long I need) and before I know it I am ready to jump back into the main project again. Continuing to work on SOMETHING – while not able to work on the main project – makes it so much easier for me to jump back into, once I am ready again.

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    1. That’s a great point, Michelle! I’m not someone who can work on multiple projects at once, but even stopping to write poetry or flash fiction, (something that can be finished in one sitting) is a great way to stop writing and yet to keep writing at the same time.

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  2. I find having multiple projects – and very different projects – can also offer distance. You need the courage to force yourself to have some distance from what you have written because only then do you stand a chance of any kind of objective reviewing / editing of it.

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    1. Hi there Ian! Thank you for stopping by! In one of my more recent posts, I talked about this idea of finding distance from one project not by stopping your writing altogether but simply by switching projects (something it sounds like you already knew!) What kind of projects are you working in?

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      1. I am about 95% through the first draft of a new novel, and have been working on my contribution to a collection of poetry I’ll be publishing with two others. The poetry’s taken a bit of back seat over the last couple of weeks as I push on to finish the draft of the novel.

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          1. I think fiction may come a little easier, but it’s marginal. In many respects it’s harder to ‘get right’. Finished product? There’s nothing like that feeling when you get the first physical proof copy of your book in your hands. Nothing. And no-one can take it away form you.

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  3. Good advice! I’ve heard people tell me before, “don’t publish immediately after writing” and “the first draft is always the worst draft”, but this is the very first article I’ve ever seen devoted entirely to the subject! It’s very informative and easy to take away from, and I think they’re guidelines worth listening to!

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