Like all of my posts, this is just my personal observation, about my own writing and editing habits. But, I’ve found time and again that this particular habit of mine could be used by others.
As writers, many of us are used to creating on deadline. There are few greater reasons to finish a project than a circled date on the calendar. But I think that many of us also have a desire to have our work seen, read, and appreciated. That’s normal, right? What a lot of writers often do, though, is jump that gun, and publish (online, usually, but I’ve seen it happen in print, too) without really looking at what’s been written.
Take a note, fellows: Take a breath, put the manuscript (or article, or drabble, or blog post) aside, and just walk away. Not for always, not for forever, not to forget about it entirely. But put it away, for at least a day, before you press “Send” or “Publish” or “Okay.” And for your day of freedom from that manuscript, take a walk, play a game, whip up for yourself and your stud-muffin a big, home-cooked meal. Do something – anything – to get away from those words you’ve put down on paper. I guarantee that, when you do come back to it the next day, you’ll see it with fresh eyes.
Because that’s what’s really important: seeing your own work as everyone else will see it: new.
Our brains have a tendency to fill in the gaps when we’re writing and reading, especially our own work. We’ll auto-correct our own mistakes, if you will. Especially if that work is still actively bouncing around in our brains. But if we leave it alone for a while (at least overnight), when we come back to it, we catch all kinds of simple, stupid mistakes. Those mistakes often separate a gifted writer from a disciplined one.
I’ve had a lot of students bring me work that I know they finished in the last minutes before showing it to me. They’re not fooling anyone. The rush shows. So I tell them the exact same thing I’ve mentioned above: take a step back, leave it alone for a while, and then come back and read it with new eyes.
Now, I’m guilty of the rush job, myself. Whenever I finish a post or a chapter, I’m always chomping at the bit to get it seen. Because I want people to read. I want people to tell me what they think. I want the approval…! But I’ve learned that it’s better for me – and better for my readers – if I just relax and follow my own advice to my students:
Don’t rush it. Leave time to set the work aside, and come back to look at it later, when the mind’s recovered from all of those bouncing, beautiful words. Trust me. You’ll be doing yourself a favor.