When to Stop Writing
“Were you nervous when you published your first novel? I have edited, rewritten and changed chapters so many times now and still doing last minute searches for errors. When do you say enough?”
My Facebook answer:
“I still get nervous. I think that’s natural. You’re working hard to share your intellectual creation. It’s nerve-racking, knowing you will be judged off of it, but it’s well worth it. But I do think – at some point – you have to step away and have beta readers and editors deal with it, and eventually, you have to turn the manuscript in, and one day, you have to know you can’t change anything anymore (even though you’ll be dying to!)”
Special shout out to Angie Neto! Because of this conversation, I wanted to expand on this topic. That being said, I believe writing is always unique to the writer. Hemingway liked to drink while writing. I couldn’t write drunk if I wanted to. But I have been found writing in a dark closet before. (Don’t ask.) So I want to take a moment to share three times that I stop writing.
1. When I’ve spent WAY too much time editing and re-editing and re-editing
I’m only starting with this one because that was the main reason of writing this post. Editing is vital. Don’t get me wrong. But it can also be destructive, and I know this because I’ve been there before. I’ve hauled myself page over page over page over year over year – only to realize I’ve been editing this manuscript to death. At this point, I’ve basically butchered the entire manuscript because I’ve sliced my confidence apart a million times. What I mean to say…well, let me describe a sad recollection of events: Shannon writes book, Shannon edits book halfway through, Shannon decides to rewrite the entire script, Shannon edits that book, Shannon edits it again, Shannon edits again, Shannon still finds the wrong “you’re” in a sentence, and Shannon breaks down about how awful of a writer she could be to miss such an editing mistake five times in a row, and now Shannon believes the entire manuscript is this way, so she deletes it and starts over…Do not – and I repeat – DO NOT do this to yourself. Edit it as many times as you want to, but always remember that other editors are out there for a reason. Let them assess it. Let them help you. Breathe. Put down the red pen. It will be okay. If we don’t learn when to stop editing, we will – literally – never stop editing. A manuscript is like a person. It will never be perfect. The imperfections give it character. (Just don’t give it too much character if you know what I mean.)
2. When I’m physically ill
Sadly, I do not mean that I have the flu. I can admit that I – in fact – have found a pen in my hand when I was bedridden. Safe? Healthy? Probably not. But I’m a writing addict. That being said, I don’t actually mean to say the flu is the problem. The problem is when I CAUSE the flu to happen in the first place because I’ve stressed myself out so much over writing that I stop taking care of myself and – in turn – I get ill. Stress ill. Headaches and body pains from sitting at my desk for too long ill. Don’t do that to yourself. In this case, strain is not gain. Strain is sickness that will only put you behind schedule even more, and it will only cause more pain.
3. When I start losing my love for writing
I never lose my love for writing – not entirely anyway. But I do have days where I step back, and I realize that I am struggling. In fact, I can confess that I went through this yesterday. I’ve been so focused on the edits of Death Before Daylight that I have forgotten to give myself time to write in a current novel I am very much emotionally involved in. Don’t get me wrong. I’m involved in Death Before Daylight as well. Very involved. But working on something new is quite the refreshing energy boost that I need to keep powering through edits of a novel. Although I love editing, working on the same project for long periods of time can be draining, especially since I’m more focused on the publishing side of things rather than the writing side of things, so I have to return to the “just writing to write” part of me often because that part of me is the most important in terms of enjoying my writing. I only have to remind myself of that.
In the end, you might have noticed that I don’t necessarily “stop” writing. I simply change my focus of writing or a take a moment to step back in order to relax. In fact, I was very serious when I said I’m going through the last one right now. Between my car and my laptop breaking down this week, my stress level peaked (and not in a good way at all). Writing is my coping mechanism, but working on edits was the last thing I needed. I had to shelve Death Before Daylight, and I had to do what I wanted to do the most desperately, so I worked on a new novel I’ve referred to before on here as TGO, and I felt much better afterward – almost like I learned to breathe again, and in all honesty, I might have to do this again next week. I’m still not sure I’m over it. All that matters is getting back on my feet again one way or another.
Do you have any times that you stop writing?
Feel free to share below! It’s also that time again – expect Website Wonders and October’s Ketchup to be posting soon.