Thursday, November 14, 2013

Surviving Revision #21: What Writers Can Learn from Popular Kids' Games

Ever poured months or more into a piece, just to realize you need to scrap it and approach in an entirely different way? Sometimes I let feedback sit for days or weeks before working up the courage to read it - not because I fear critique, but because critique means the work isn't done yet. It means revising or even rewriting entire sections one or two or ten more times. And at a certain point, the question becomes, will this ever be Ready?

The answer, of course, is a big fat YES! So how do you stay motivated to keep at it?

Channel An 8-year Old 
If you've ever played hide and go seek with a good hider, you've learned how to be meticulous. You spent several minutes in a room, looking under blankets, between sofa cushions, anywhere and everywhere your annoying older sister friend could fit. After searching an entire room with no result, you left it and moved on to the next, knowing you were that much closer to the target.

The work you put into a first or second or eighth draft is much like that. While it feels as if you just spent for*ev*er meticulously writing your piece just to scrap it, you're actually working through the "false leads," and getting that much closer to the goal - kind of like that other kids game where you're steered toward a hidden object based on how "hot" or "cold" your friends says you are.

All of that feedback you're getting isn't telling you that your piece will never be Ready. It's purposefully guiding you towards the final draft.

Take Your Regular Dose of Motivation
What makes your fingers itch to get writing? For some it's reading a favorite author; for others it's the appreciative friend who always wants to read the "next chapter" of their work in progress. I've always found that writing groups keep me excited about writing - or, when I'm not excited about my writing - they require that I still write, so the procrastination is held at bay.

Whatever motivates you to write, do it regularly. It's too easy to put off the revision until tomorrow, which becomes next week, and next year. If you're really stuck on a revision, sometimes just taking the Daily Dose is enough to keep your mind on writing until you're finally ready to sit down and tackle the draft again.

Know You're Not Alone
Let's face it:  nobody's first writing attempt is Instant Genius. Novelist Arthur Golden rewrote his entire book three times, over a span of six years. For him, a major shift came when he decided to change the point of view - on the third shot, I believe. But that third book became the bestselling Memoirs of a Geisha. 

I've written before about bloggers who seemed to attain overnight success, but those are the exception. Jeff Goins is one of many writers who started several unread blogs before finally hitting the mark. In a recent podcast he attributed its success to what he learned from his first few blogs - which we won't call failures. They were simply his learning curve, the unvoiced "cold, warm, warmer," that steers us all in the right direction.



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