Friday, January 16, 2015

Back Into The Woods

Yesterday after I posted this Chronicle piece on writing, a friend joked on my Facebook wall that the next thing he expected to see was my own post about writing. Well, this is my hour for doing my own writing. I have 15 minutes left, so rather than be productive, I'm going to be reflective and share one valuable insight to add to Rob Jenkins' list.

His advice is pretty standard but important. Commit, prioritize, schedule, and be patient. My favorite tidbit here? Repurpose. USE what you have written! It is so true. Writing is rewriting. The fantasy of starting from scratch and doing it better is just that, a fantasy. Think about a piece of writing that you are really proud of. Presumably you didn't shoot that out in one inspired composing session. (Or if you did, I don't want to hear about it and we're not friends. I jest.)

I just sent off an article that I thought I'd never get done. It wasn't a new piece but a revision of a dissertation chapter. Funny how surprising difficult that can be! And yet, starting with a foundation of text that I completely rewrote felt much more manageable. I finished it over break only to discover that I needed to cut a third to meet the journal's requirements for submissions. Back to the drawing board! And let me tell you, it actually got better after I'd lobbed off one of the limbs! Repurpose, rewrite, and don't be afraid to go in with a machete.

Today I return to my book manuscript. Back in October I was at my wits end with this chapter. It didn't feel like it was going anywhere. Was I ever going to finish it? The argument was a mess.

Well. What a difference two-and-a-half months make. I sat down to read through my writing from the Fall and was surprised to discover that from this distance, once I had stepped outside of the piece, I heard a voice that was clear and confident with something interesting to say. I'm excited to get back to it.

So here's my piece of writing advice, an addendum to Be Patient: Be Willing to Step Away and Come Back. Sometimes you need to force your way through, bushwack through that underbrush. But sometimes (get ready for some tortured metaphors) and if you have the time, allow yourself to step back, walk out of the ticket, climb up on the hill and look down. You might just be able to see the forest for the proverbial trees. Happy writing semester, everyone. Now, BACK INTO THE WOODS!

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