Writing–That Walk Away Point

Illustration from the Collier's magazine print...

It really doesn’t matter what kind of writing project it is -novel, novella, short story- it seems that at some point during the revision stage I have to walk away from it. Letting the story settle after a round of revisions, putting a little distance between myself and the words helps me see what needs to be done.

However, for some stories, the walk away isn’t just part of the revision process. It’s because I’ve grown to absolutely detest the story

I mentioned last week hitting that point with the Ivy novella. It’s not a unusual breaking point for me to get to when a project is being difficult.

There comes a point when I don’t want to look at the story anymore. I don’t want to read the words. I don’t want to try to make the story better. Just thinking about the story saps my will to live and makes me question my dedication to being a writer.

The only logical way to deal with this overwhelming feeling of disgust is to walk away. I put away the disagreeable project in question and I leave it alone until I’m done hating it. Sometimes that’s a couple of weeks. Sometimes that’s a couple of months. But the distance eases my hatred and makes my heart grow fonder for the piece.

Okay, not always. Sometimes the distance allows me to just hate the piece less while I gain the important objective view of the story so I can finally finish revising it and make it worth reading.

I don’t like hating any of my stories, but it happens. And I think it might be very easy for me to just abandon the stories I despise and move on to something I love. But, I don’t. I force myself to finish them to completion because just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean that someone else won’t adore it. It’s not fair for me to give up on it just because I don’t like it. If I’ve gotten that far with it, then the story deserves to be told, whether it ever gets published or not.

And I also don’t hate stories for an eternity. Sometimes I hate them at the walk away point, but then rediscover my like/love for the story during our separation. Now, if I abandoned the story just because I didn’t like it when it was being its most difficult, that would be a total injustice.

I’m exaggerating, but only a little bit.

I usually feel guilty when I first walk away a story, but I know in the end it works out for the best.

We all need our space, you know.

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