Monday, March 8, 2010

Writing Wisdom: Getting Things Right

Elisabeth Spann Craig, of Mystery Writing is Murder, had a post today about freaking out when you find mistakes in your writing.

Today I took a daytrip down to Zingerman's Deli (Food Geek Central of the Universe), with a friend of mine who is an artist. She started out as a potter, and she had an interesting take on how to deal with things that don't come out the way you expect. You see, pottery NEVER comes out the way you expect. You make it, put it in the kiln... and something else comes out.

She said that the biggest thing she learned in grad school was that you shouldn't just take your "failures" out of the kiln and smash them. You take them out, put them on a shelf in your house, and live with them for several months. Then you get to choose which ones to keep and which to smash.

Now, here's the thing. As writers we may think that's what we're doing when we put a manuscript aside for a while, but we aren't. When you put a manuscript on a shelf or in a drawer, you're not living with it. You're avoiding it, trying to forget it. And that's fine, but it doesn't do for us what the shelf does for the potter.

What we need to do is put it on a shelf in our heads - actually think about it. Learn to be zen and accept that maybe you didn't get what you intended or wanted, but is there value in what you got? Is this really actually bad, or is it just awkward and in need of some polishing? Or does it need a companion piece to come out right?

And before you smash those words against the wall, be sure you know what is actually wrong with them, what is right, and what to do in future.

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