Thursday, April 15, 2010

Quit Writing

Over at The Plot Whisperer blog you can find an excellent post about writing. Click here!

The best bit of advice I gleaned from that post is . . .

Quit writing before you begin to lose energy for what you are doing, before you begin to trash talking your work, before you despair. Quit while you’re still in the flow, feeling good about yourself and the process of creating something out of nothing on the page.

How often have you written past the point of energy, stamina, desire? How often have you dragged yourself away from your writing - not in a good way - and then looked back the next day and thought: Holy Crap, Batman, this sucks?? Oh, c'mon, admit it, it's happened a time or two. It has for me and I know, just know, I can't be the only one out there who this has happened to at some point in the writing process.

So, you're in the flow the words are pouring out faster than your brain or fingers can keep up. Page after page is miraculously unfolding before your very eyes. You keep writing, writing, writing, revved up by the passion for the story exploding in your mind. You keep writing, writing, writing and suddenly fatigue sets in. Your eyes begin to burn. Your body - your mind possibly - is telling you to STOP! You keep writing, writing, writing . . . and all the brilliance disappears leaving you with a load of crapola!

Yeah, been there, done that, have multiple t-shirts . . . and rewrites to prove it! Ha!

So, heed the advice of the plot whisperer . . . stop while you are ahead. Stop with that last, brilliant sentence, paragraph, or chapter. STOP!

The flame of our writing inspiration is fickle enough as it is, without us burning it to a crisp by overworking ourselves.

There comes a time when we must, for the sake of sanity (if not the safety of the Universe at large) step away from our writing and journey back into the world of house, and kids, and animals, and obligations, and bills to pay . . . and all the mundane jazz that makes delving into our imaginations so much dang fun. We must stop every now and then, come up for air, and recharge our batteries.

The advice from the Plot Whisperer, or so it seems to me, is golden. So much so that . . .

Quit writing before you begin to lose energy for what you are doing, before you begin to trash talking your work, before you despair. Quit while you’re still in the flow, feeling good about yourself and the process of creating something out of nothing on the page.

13 comments:

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Wise words. Now I just have to remember them when I need to take a break from my writing.

I have an award for you on my blog.

Claire Dawn said...

I'm ambiguous on this one.

When I'm writing I write until I run out of steam. That said, I am not the type who does really well doing things I don't feel like, so if it's painful, it's probably not getting done.

Scott said...

Stina - the wisest words of all are often the hardest to heed! Thanks for the award.

Claire Dawn - there are so many times when I should have stopped writing and didn't. I pay the price for that folly during the editing phase. I've learned to rely on my instincts. If the words aren't flowing so swiftly, if the writing is a struggle, then I need to stop, take a breath, and do something else.

myliteraryquest said...

It is very wise not to force the muse and keep writing when nothing good is spilling onto the paper. But it is foolish to call it quits. Often it's times like these that you have to dig deep before you can unearth some gold.

Eric W. Trant said...

I write in the mornings, when everyone's asleep and the house is quiet. I give myself a writing time from 4:30AM to 6:30AM, and usually my wife interrupts me at 6:00AM when she gets up, just to say hi, and like with this morning, she sat there and chatted with me from about 6:15AM until it was time to shut it down and quit.

I didn't mind. I don't mind. I had a good stopping point, and that is a wonderful place to leave off!

It's so much easier to pick up and continue a clean scene.

Also, I'd add this: LISTEN to your characters, and your muse. If the writing is NOT EASY, then you're on the wrong path. Only write what flows.

- Eric

Scott said...

myliterary quest – I think the advice is more to call it quits when you’re struggling so hard and really writing nothing. Yes, digging deep is good, but sometimes all your find is iron pyrite (aka fools gold). I’m pretty good about instinctively knowing when to stop . . . and that’s what works for me. Since we’re all different, everybody has their own rule of thumb. : )

Eric – I agree about listening to the characters and muse. There are times when the writing is such a struggle that I’ll stop and come back to the scene/chapter the next day. Many times, I rewrite totally because . . . I should have realized the scene/chapter wasn’t working sooner, yet instead of stopping, I kept writing and . . .

Elana Johnson said...

I love this! I think I do this in a way. When I feel myself running out of words, I stop. I don't want to open my document the next day and stare at the perfect chapter/scene ending and have no way to start again. So sometimes I stop in the middle of a scene, just so I can have something to write the next day. I've even been known to stop writing in the middle of a sentence. No, really!

E. Arroyo said...

This is something to think about! Thanks for the post.

Christ is Write. said...

Sometimes I get so into writing that the outside world completely vanishes... until I come to a Dead End, aka, Writer's Bloc. I also like to write early in the mornings when it's quiet and the coffee is hot. =) Great post!

Tessa

Shannon O'Donnell said...

This is a wonderful post! I love this! Thank you for sharing this, Scott. :-)

Bossy Betty said...

Great advice--but so hard to do!

Carrie Cooper said...

Carrie @ comfortedbyGod.blogspot.com

Scott,
I stumbled across your blog...since Im writing a book your post caught my eye.

What you said is so true. Sometimes the words just pour out of me; other times it takes two hours to pen one paragraph. For me I feel pressured to write while I have the available time and not necessarily wait for the golden moments.

Scott said...

Elana – something about the whole concept clicked with me and made me realize that I already do this whole stopping thing. I’ve also stopped in the middle of a scene, like you, just to have a great starting point for the next writing session. I haven’t – you’re such a rebel – stopped in the middle of a . . . sentence. Ha!

E – you’re welcome. Thinking is a good thing, no matter what some people might say!

Tessa – I write when I can find the time, which isn’t as often as I would like some days. There are times I lose myself in my writing, like you, and then BAM . . . I can’t think of what to write next. I’ve learned, through experience, to step away from the writing at those times. I’m learning now, to stop before I hit the wall.

Shannon – you’re welcome. I’m always glad to share the good stuff!

Bossy – yeah, it’s great advice, hard to follow, but I think worthwhile if we can figure out how to follow the advice in a way that works for us.

Carrie – thanks for stumbling over. Whoa, that didn’t sound too good . . . but made me smile, so that’s not a bad thing. Everybody writes differently. I don’t write everyday. Yes, I know . . . the horrors! I write when I write, and don’t when I don’t, and am at peace with that decision. If the words aren’t flowing, I don’t write. I can’t force my brilliance (ha). I can only do the best I can do. I can stare at the blank screen for an hour, but that’s not really being productive. So, quit while you’re ahead. The words will come . . . eventually.