Editing isn’t the most fun part of writing, but believe me, it is the most necessary part. In yesterday’s video, I talked about my own editing process. I broke editing down into three stages and you can go check that out.
Over here, though, I want to talk about the importance of taking a break from your work before and during the editing process. I’m going to share three reasons why I believe this is so important, though I’m sure I could think up many more.
Let’s clarify this ‘taking a break’ term before we dive in, shall we? Taking a break is the act of figuratively or literally sticking your study’s manuscript in a drawer for at least a week (but something like a month is better). Stepping away from your manuscript for that length of time gives your brain the opportunity to become unfamiliar with your work again. It helps you see what you’ve written with a fresh perspective. This is really important and let’s dive into why.
Reason 1: Familiarity
Raise your hand if you’ve ever become so familiar with your work that you don’t really read it anymore. You just kind of, well, skim it. Is your hand raised? So is mine.
When you and I write, we become very familiar with the ideas we are trying to share and our brain starts to fill in words that should be there, but aren’t. I’ve actually missed important words in sentences because of this, like the MAIN subject word of the sentence. My brain plops it in there even though it’s missing. Your alpha and beta readers will undoubtedly pick up on these mistakes and let you know, but wouldn’t you rather never sending off a version with them missing?
Of course, having your test readers pick up on these things isn’t a bad thing, either, especially if they are your alphas. However, in Bible study land, because your betas are actually WORKING your study, you want it to be as polished as you can get it before sending. You want as little distraction as possible for those precious betas while they work. In order for it to be polished, you need to step away.
I find that not looking at it while my alphas read is a really good way to take that break. It’s so hard to take a break because you feel like you’re doing, well, NOTHING during it – at least with that particular work. When I know that my alphas are working with my manuscript, it is much easier to step away and let it rest.
Reason 2: Rest
Since you have been working diligently at finishing up your study or even after the first round of editing, your brain gets tired of that particular manuscript and its content. There are times I sat down to work on a project and come up completely blank no matter how much or how long I stare at the screen. I know I want to finish it. I’m enjoying writing or working on it, but I can’t seem to find any words to put in there.
This is a big sign that your brain needs a break from the current project. Sometimes simply spending a week on another project (in a completely different medium!) is what your brain needs to shift and get back into WIP (work in progress) mode.
When I was editing my study, there were days I would try to edit and simply stare blankly at my screen. No matter what I did, I could not get a single thing done. People were depending on me to do it, though. I’d already lined up all my beta readers. My alphas had already gone through those chapters, and yet, I couldn’t find a way to do the necessary editing. The added pressure made it even harder to focus.
My brain needed a rest. Even though I felt like I didn’t have time, I had to take a few days away from editing to let my brain rest and reset. I crocheted. I knitted. I watched documentaries. I did things other than writing. Once I came back to it, I felt refreshed and ready to go. I finished all my editing in a just a few days after my break, after I’d struggled for days to get anything done at all. It’s easy to ignore the signs our bodies and our brains are giving us to rest but friends, it is SO important that we listen.
Reason 3: Renewal
We write because we enjoy it, right? We edit because it’s necessary, right?
What about when it all becomes too much? What about the time we start to dread that appointment with the keyboard or document to edit?
Sometimes, after the kid’s bedtime when I know I have the best time to write, I find myself wandering around my house looking for a snack that I know we don’t have or doing dishes or sweeping my floor or organizing my yarn bin or doing one of a hundred other things that aren’t writing. When I think about trying to write or edit, I get that stressed out feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Friends, I LOVE to write. My brain functions in the written word. I feel alive and full of purpose in a way when I write that very few other things fill. It is a full-fledged passion of mine. Sometimes, though, it’s the last thing I want to do. I don’t want to open up my laptop. I don’t want to pull up my WIP. I don’t want to look at a single word. I don’t want to double check my references. I don’t want to read that section of Scripture I quoted to make sure it’s right. I just don’t want to.
I need time away from my manuscript to feel energized about it again. I need time away to reignite that passion for the project I’ve spent hours with and poured out my heart and my soul. I need time away to renew my mind and my spirit. This is completely normal to need time away from the document for a bit. Sometimes, I decide to work on a different project. Other times, I watch documentaries and knit doll blankets. What other things could you do to help yourself renew?
Taking breaks while we write is an essential part of writing. It’s the same idea as taking rest days while training (I’m also a runner). In everything we do, we need to make sure that we maintain a balance instead of losing ourselves into one passion or practice. I am a writer, but I am more than a writer. I have all sorts of passions and hobbies and I need to make sure that I do what I need to achieve my pursuits at the highest level of quality possible. We all want to do well in what we do. We must be intentional, we can’t rush it, and sometimes, walking away is the best thing we can do for our writing.
How about you? Do you take enough breaks while writing? Do you find a different method to be useful?