Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Midge Raymond Discusses the Importance of Putting Some Space & Time Between You & Your Writing

Author Midge Raymond

I am thrilled to introduce our guest blogger (and past contributor) at Crab Creek Review, Midge Raymond.

Her book, Forgetting English is being rereleased today!  Check out the link below for your own copy.  You will not be disappointed.

And now, to her Guest Blogger post below---

Forgetting English By Midge Raymond, Author of Forgetting English

Absence makes the heart grow fonder … of your own writing

I've always been the type of writer who loves revision. (I know: I’m a little insane.) But think of it this way: As much as most of us dread revision, if you were given the choice between a blank page and a work in progress, which would you choose?

For me, there's no contest; I’ll choose the work in progress over the blank page any day.

Lately, though, as I’ve begun to approach an old project after a long time away, I’ve found myself somewhere in between: I’ve got words on the page (a whole lot of words), but I am realizing that most of them must go. I've literally written hundreds of pages, and very few of them will make it into my next version. It’s a little sad—but at the same time, I’m learning that it’s also pretty great.

Why? Because as I begin to delve into the story again, as I get reacquainted with my characters, I can now see that all this work I'm going to “throw away” is probably the most important work I’ve done. I know my characters inside and out, even though in this next version they may appear on the page more or less often than I envisioned, or from a different point of view. (There’s also a character who now wants to be a bigger part of the story, and who am I to say no?) I’ve always known where the story is going to take place, and so in that sense I’ve already done my research—so the next time I sit down to write, my scenes will flow a little more smoothly, without having to constantly interrupt myself to look something up, or call someone for information, or set up an interview.

Most of us writers can always use a little time away from our work—and yet often we're so eager to finish something that we often neglect to take this precious time. (Or am I the only one?) Fortunately, I’d been forced to take some time away from this project, giving me this new perspective that I needed—it’s almost like getting sick and being forced to get the rest you've needed for a long time, rather than planning that vacation weekend you know you need but can’t give yourself permission to take.

So I've instituted a new policy for my writing self: to file away each first draft and let it spend a little time in its room. So far, this has accomplished not one goal but at least two: 1) I'll get time and space away from the project so I can return to it with fresh eyes; and 2) it forces me to begin something new rather than rewrite, edit, and fret over a piece that needs an objective eye.

Next, I’ll need a strategy for what to do with all those story beginnings. But I’ll save that for another guest post.

Happy writing!


You can find Midge Raymond at her website: http://www.midgeraymond.com/

And info about her book can be found here: http://www.press53.com/BioMidgeRaymond.html

Or buy her book from Amazon here:  Forgetting English

Midge Raymond's short-story collection,Forgetting English, received the Spokane Prize for Short Fiction. Her stories have appeared inTriQuarterly, American Literary Review, Indiana Review, North American Review, Bellevue Literary Review, the Los Angeles Times magazine, and many other publications. Her work has been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes and received an Artist Trust/Washington State Arts Commission Fellowship.

Midge taught communication writing at Boston University for six years, and she has taught creative writing at Boston's Grub Street Writers and Seattle'sRichard Hugo House. While living in Southern California, she held writing workshops and seminars at San Diego Writers, Ink, where she also served as vice president of the board of directors.

Midge lives and writes in the Pacific Northwest.


Laura Maylene said...

Good advice. I always take a break between each novel draft, and it's amazing what a difference a few weeks can make. I often let short stories sit for even longer. I have a few that I let languish on my hard drive for years before pulling them up and reworking them. Time equals perspective!

Midge said...

Laura, you're so right: Time really does equal perspective (if only the waiting weren't so difficult sometimes!). Thanks so much for your comment, and happy writing!

Unknown said...

Exactly! Taking time away from your words is a necessary remedy for good revision. As I was reading the post, I thought of what an aerial view accomplishes - seeing the whole picture - and how that perspective cannot be achieved from being up close. As with any craft, the time away from the activity can also enrich the joy and experience when one returns.

Midge said...

Maxie, I like the way you put this, about getting an aerial view of a project. This is so essential, and can't happen unless we take a (huge) step back. Thanks for sharing your words of wisdom!

The Review Review said...

This is so true. And it takes a wise writer to realize that often the greatest work happens away from the desk. Stepping back, catching one's breath, even working on other things can vastly improve a particular project. Great article.

Midge said...

Thanks for your comments! I feel it's important to share that sometimes the "non-writing" can be the most important work we do ... especially so we don't feel guilty about not being in the chair all the time! Thanks again - and happy (non)writing!