Don’t Beat Up Your Words

header hands keyboardMy daughter recently got me an autographed copy of Barbara Brown Taylor’s Learning to Walk in the Dark. The book is largely about rethink our relationship with all forms of dark and darkness in our lives – she makes the case that it’s not all bad. But, what really caught my attention is a passage about the writing process.

I was under a big deadline at work…Everything else got shoved to the sidelines while I made words march on pages for fourteen and fifteen hours a day. After about two weeks of this, the words told me they could not go on much longer. Let us rest, they begged.

As I read this, I realized there have been times that words begged me for relief and I ignored them to my own detriment. I think of countless blog posts that I just had to get done. White papers that had to be at least four pages no matter what I actually had to say. Press releases, well, you get the idea.

Pay attention to when the words need a break. You will be glad you did.

Some tips to add fresh thoughts and energy to your writing:

  • Take a break, mental and physical. Walk away from the monitor. Think about something else. Move around.
  • Read. There’s no greater inspiration for the craft of writing than to see what someone else has done. You’ll find motivation for what to try as well as what to avoid.
  • Get another opinion. Another set of eyes is not just for proofreading. Share your work in progress with someone else and get their fresh thoughts.
  • Wad it up. When all else fails, start over. It’s painful to give up on what you have done, but in the long run you will be glad you did.

Look for ways to let the words rest and thrive. You want to avoid this. Again, from the book:

..All the words lay down and died, lying on the page like ants in a poisoned anthill: little black bodies everywhere, their legs curled up like burnt whiskers.

Here’s to words that thrive!