“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?”
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, take your work back 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!
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6 thoughts on “Writing Tip: Just STOP”
Great advice, Kayla Ann. Stopping after you’ve put your pen down, so to speak, gives one distance, followed by perspective. And with that often comes the courage to “kill the darlings” that distract. 🙂
Good advice! Hard to do but worth it!
I’ve done this many times before, and I can say it works. The power of distance is key.
Good advice and it works. Renewed perspective!
So true, Kayla. Taking a break between drafts was something I never did, but when I got into the habit with my last few finished manuscripts, it made such a difference. Thanks for the great reminder.