Fresh Eyes: Stepping Away to Get Closer

Futuristic glasses image by Syda Productions via Shutterstock

Futuristic glasses image by Syda Productions via Shutterstock

Some of us have been writing so long that we find ourselves going through the motions and not really seeing or expecting as much as we’d like from it. But—and this is the few times you’ll ever hear me say this—sometimes the best thing you can do for your writing is to stop writing. Sometimes the best thing we can do is take out hand off of it, long enough to reclaim ourselves, renovate ourselves; look at our piece of work, our collection of works, and in some cases our goal or dreams again and examine them through new lenses.

While doing my normal weekly web surfing—for ideas about writing from unexpected places, for my other writing blog at SamTheWriter.com—I ran across a home renovation site, and these guys got me thinking about a simple yet essential practice that writer’s often forget about, or neglect. In neglecting or pushing it off, for ‘a better time,’ writers often end up suffering some very severe consequences that show up in quality of work, quantity of work, accessing creativity, and/or desire to continue their pursuit of a writing life.

The Lesson: Fresh Eyes, Fresh Mind

As writers, we suffer a creative form of literary bipolar disorder. It not only affects us writer’s but all Artists and Creatives. Some, like myself, see it as a frustrating rollercoaster-like relationship with our Muse. Other’s describe it as ‘being in’ or ‘falling out’ of touch with the Spirit of Creativity. However you define or describe it, you know what I’m talking about.

We love our WIPs (Work In Progress) one day and the next day we’re looking at it thinking, ‘What was I so freakin excited about when I wrote this?’ This is how many really great story and article ideas end up in the waste-basket-graveyard when they were good enough to be published—if only its creator had spent a little time away and had come back to it with fresh eyes it wouldn’t have died so premature. This is also the reason that many great story and article ideas get reject when the ideas were publish-worthy; the article or story’s creator, this time submitted it too early because they were so excited about the idea that they just couldn’t wait to send it off after the needed edits or rewrites.

A break, mini vacation…something—just get away from you work. I don’t care if you have to book a flight to Las Ventanas Del Mar [I’ve even highlighted the link for you], just get away from you work for a few days, even a week. When I finished my first 60,000-word novel, I literally hated it the day after I typed the last sentence. I was about to erase the whole thing when instead I decided to save it to a new flash drive I had been given, put it in my desk drawer. I didn’t look at it that week. One week lead to a month and that lead to forgetting about it for seven years!

About a year after I had written and saved the novel onto that flash, I moved to St. Louis to host a rock video show. Once I’d finally gotten around to setting up my office again I found the drive, popped it in and, after a few hours found myself, mouth gaping, in total shock and amazement at this work of fiction. Even more amazing to me was the fact that I had written it.

Yes, I took way too long of a vacation from it, but no I didn’t regret it being so long since I’d read it because it was like the manuscript has matured and evolved into something beautiful. IT hadn’t matured, of course, I had gained an important and essential writer’s resource. I was reading it through brand new specs: Fresh Eyes, a fresh mindset, and a fresh perception.

Everytime I write short fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, blog posts (like this), articles for news sources or magazines and, especially posts or content for clients — as soon as I finish writing the piece I set it aside for as long as it needs to be; usually the time I spend away from it depends on length of word count, my emotional connection to it, or deadline.

I know several professional photographers and, it’s crazy how many photos they shoot, of the same subject, and crazier the time they spend going through each picture to find the perfect one to represent their work. You can tell a great photographer by, not only the quality of their work but, the quantity of quality work they put on their website. One could look at The Wright House Photography website and say that it’s a nice, clean, simple site. But when I look at it I see a photographer who has spent countless hours mulling through mountains of photos to represent herself—and her skill—through many hours of personal sacrifice.

Artists don’t just create a work and throw it out for all to see; they know that what they put out is a presentation of who they are. It’s the same with every single piece of work we writers complete. They don’t say, “Writing the first draft is easy, it’s the 20 to almost infinite following that’ll drive you insane,” for no reason.

If you really want to put your best work forward — take a break from it. Read it through the filter of fresh eyes. Time away will show you many things—both great and not-so-great—about your work; things you need to see with fresh eyes to edit properly.

Try them on now…

Maybe you have some great pieces of literary work right under your nose that you’ve filed away in a cabinet or computer file because you didn’t give it a chance. Maybe you stopped a project right in the middle because you decided it wasn’t what you originally thought that it was; it wasn’t turning out as you hoped it would. Maybe you need to pull those things out and look at them with fresh eyes and fresh mind. You never know, you could have the next best seller on your hands; or at least some really great idea to use as the framework for some new idea. You may just shock yourself at what you wrote and walked away from.

Maybe you’ve been staring at your monitor for the last few days frustrated because you don’t know where to take the story. The best thing you could do for that work is get away from it for a few days or week.

Try it. Let me know if you find a hidden treasure. I won’t be shy about accepting a finder’s fee if you end up at the top of a New York Times Best Sellers list. Just kidding, but not really.

Cheers to you writers!

As always: Write, Write, Write as if burning on fire…then submit!

-SamTheWriter

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Because we must write to save the world!

wellness-calendar-wellness-program-ideas

Today was a very busy day for me.

I woke up at 7am and worked my morning job till 5pm. Then I got off and rushed home in time to sit at the table and scarf down an amazing meal with my wife and two kids. It actually looked amazing and the smell that filled my nostrils, as I crashed through the front door of my house with work bag in hand, instantly made me salivate. As for taste, I don’t know, I had to literally open my mouth and throat, set the plate inside and run to the restroom to toss some deodorant on, shower myself with aftershave (not to get rid of a smell but blend the nastiness of work with the clean irish scent, and hope for something normal out of it.

Then off to my daughters dance class, which ended in enough time to rush to church at 7pm, so the kids wouldn’t miss out on a prize for bringing their bibles four weeks in a roll. Soon as church is over at 8:30pm, I take the kids home (wife is already at work at the hospital now) give them a bed time snack, read a story, hugs, kisses, prayer, one last glass of water, one last…no two last kisses..9:20pm they are down, I only missed their bed time by 40 minutes. YES!

I take a shower, make a pot of coffee, clean up the left over dinner and kitchen, sit down on the couch and watch the news- ok, who am I kidding,  watch the sci-fi channel for 10 minutes to un-wind – whoops, open my eyes, it’s now 2:15am…darn, I fell asleep. And now I’m too tired to get up and right because my alarm will go off in 4 and a half hours, to get me ready for another episode of the same thing, just tweeked  a little.

The next day, while I was at work, (in between meetings) a buddy of mine came in, and wanted to see if I could grab lunch with with. I thought about it, and decided that I needed a break from reality, so I went to lunch with him (I figured I would just tell my boss that I fell asleep on the toilet…strange enough who’d make it up, right?)

At lunch, I told my friend about the craziness of my life.

“Why the hell do you write?” he said.

“Wha” I started to say before my diet Pepsi came through my nose and dripped on my shirt.

“Writing” he continued “no way, I’d do it.  If you stopped writing do you realize that you’d have time to sleep?”

NOW right here I want to stop. Nothing else matters but the question that got my nostrils stinging:

” Why the hell do you write!”

I know why I write. I write because I am a writer. Because I must. Because I can not fathom the thought of putting down the pen. Because I refuse to stop being a day dreamer. Money, or not money, I will work two jobs to support my family if I must, but I’ll not stop doing what I was born to do.

What about you?

Why do you scratch down your stories, poems, articles on that wrinkled up small pad of paper in your back pocket, or purse. Why do you stay up strange hours pounding the key board?

A few nights ago I had a dream that we were in the distant future, and there were NO writers, no books, just computers to speak literature to us. Nothing new. Can you imagine living in a world without literature? Living in a world were there is no written word.

When I woke up I thought about why ‘the hell’ I do it. I have to tell you the truth: I am scared to death of a world without creativity, without art, without poetry.

All artists are in the business of expressing the beauty of the human mind and the awe and wonder of the planet we live in.  And in these times fear, war, injustice, hunger, pain, and terror, there is more a reason for us to stay awake all night, scratching away on our tattered note pads on lunch breaks, sneaking a minute here and there to switch our work computer over to our WIP (work in progress) on Word.

I say the world needs a Creative revolution. A re-birth of creativity. A fresh look at the written word. I say write, write, write until you can not write anymore. Send your scribblings everywhere, to as many people as possible. Let everyone see that the writers are not going to fade away, but we will help forge a future that demands literacy and creativity as a diet for every human.

I sent a collection of sci-fi short stories I wrote, to a friend of mine who runs an orphanage in Thailand, and another to a buddy that leads a missions team in Uganda. They translated them to the kids and watched them listen intensely, (momentarily forgetting their hunger) I sent poetry to friends in the military who are in Iraq, and to a brother on a submarine for the next 8 months. He sent me an e-mail telling me that they have passed through the whole sub.

People want to escape. We offer that ability. We are the guides for time travel, we are the doors to alternate realities. Write, write, write.

Why should you write?

You should write as if you know that you are saving the world.

Samthewriter

Don’t Forget the Journals and Reviews

Today I spent several hours online researching online publications, and ‘small press’ literary journals. These journals and reviews fly under the radar of my new writers. It is a real shame to miss out on these because they are very important in the literary world, especially online. There have been several times that I have been sitting in a coffee shop enjoying an Americano, and as I look around the room I see some young person busily scratching down the address or e-mail of a publishing company found in a Bible-thick writing Market guide.

Let me tell you that there is nothing wrong with that, I have all of the Writers Markets sitting all of four feet from my desk. But many of these young writers have no clue about the vast expanse of literary reviews that he or she can find in seconds on their computer and send off their short story, essay, or poem in a matter of minutes. In fact, many of these online reviews have submission systems. You just type in your information and cut and paste or upload your Word Doc; click send and it’s off.

I have had more stories and poems published in these little reviews than sending off to a book publishing company.

So if you are a young writer and you are dying to get your short story, essay, poem, or even a portion of you novel, check out the literary reviews and small presses. On the ‘Writers Help’ page on my (soon to be complete) website, I have a pretty good list for you to check out. Just click on any of the links and it will take you right to their submissions guidelines. Check it out www.SamTheWriter.com

Have a good night.

SamTheWriter,

signing off.