Giving It a Rest
One of the hardest parts about being a writer, at least for me, is not the actual process of getting down to the business of writing. Though of course much can get in the way of writing. For me, those obstacles include a full-time job, children, a husband –- you know –- real life!
I’ve been blessed with a supportive husband who patiently lets me hide out and write when I like. My kids are in their late teens and creating on their own. And my job, well, that continues but I’m thankful I have it.
And I’ve been fortunate enough to never have writer’s block. I can pretty much always come up with something –- flash fiction, poetry, a piece of a novel –- when I set out to do some writing. In fact, I can put out a lot of words. During a two-week stint last summer I wrote over 50,000 words: most of one novel and parts of another. I’ve also managed to draft most of my debut novel, “Washed Up,” during National Novel Writing Month one year.
So output hasn’t been a problem.
The stickier issue for me has been forcing myself to NOT write. You see, I tend to jump from an early draft directly to submitting pieces. My revisions may consist of copy-editing, and that’s about it. And the reason it doesn’t go beyond copy-editing is that I haven’t paid attention to the important and complex ingredient of letting my doughy first draft rest.
I think this neglected phase of writing deserves more attention. That is, the phase of not-writing. Of letting the creative output rest, by filing the work (and making that all important back-up copy) and then just being okay with walking away from a story, poem, or novel and almost forgetting about it.
The layering of the passive activity of NOT paying any attention to the work does many things:
- provides that essential layer of time away that clears the cobwebs
- offers the space for your brain to still subconsciously work in deeper, more complex ideas
- opens up time to start the next poem, story, novel, maybe an even better one than you thought you just wrote.
- allows you to do other important creation-building work, like reading, learning from the masters of the trade.
Maybe we need a new writing related activity that involves, well, not writing. How about a National Not Writing Month (NaNotWriMo)? It would involve lots of reading, lots of long walks, lots of naps. Lots of rest from writing. Can you imagine how refreshed and raring to go you’d be after a month of letting your work sit, reading, clearing away the creative cobwebs?
I know I’m in!
Susan Koefod is the author of the Arvo Thorson mystery series. Her debut, Washed Up, was praised for its “gorgeous prose” by Library Journal. Other books in the series include Broken Down (2012) and Burnt Out (2013). She has also widely published prose and poetry, including her short story “Boys will be Boys,” which appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. She is a recipient of a 2013 McKnight Artist Fellowship for Writers.
For the many different ways of contacting Susan, please check out her about.me page.