Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sometimes it's best to simply walk away

You've finished it - that essay, the story, the article. You've worked on it forever, you've sweat blood and tears, and you're finally ready to turn it in. Wait - do one last thing.

Walk away.

Seriously. If you can, if you're not on deadline, save your file and take a walk. Get away for a few minutes, for a few hours, even, if you can swing it. You might be surprised at what you find when you return.

There's this great quote by artist Paul Gauguin: "I close my eyes in order to see." Now, Gauguin was actually speaking about painting, of course, but I think his words can apply to writing, as well.

When we're so close to something, we lose perspective. We know what we want to say, but are we really making our meaning clear to the reader? And when we're self-editing, over and over again, are we finding those little mistakes? We can't be sure. So walk away. Take a break. Clear your head.

And then come back. Read. Maybe your words will be perfect, and you can feel proud and relieved you took the time to make that one last safety check. But maybe you'll find some things you never expected - garbled sentences, repeated words, dropped punctuation. Maybe you're conveying something you didn't mean to; maybe your point isn't getting across as strongly as it should.

Time is one of our most valuable commodities - if you have it, by all means, use it. Close your eyes, open them, and really see.

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