For those of us engaged in creative pursuits (writing, music, photography, visual arts, etc.), free time is not often free. For us, free time is a valuable commodity that we rarely have enough of to satisfy our minds and desires. While some of us are known to procrastinate more frequently than we’d like to admit, when we are in a creative burst, there is no safe way to get between us and our passions. However, life sometimes demands that we take a break.
This happened to me this weekend. Now that fieldtrip season is officially over and schools here in Pennsylvania are letting out for the summer, my workload is easing off. Unfortunately, my body seemed to recognize the reprieve and decided that now is a good time to feel under the weather. While I’m not definably sick, I am tired, achy, and sore, the same feeling I get after too much overtime with a heavy dose of manual labor. While some people are perfectly capable of mental pursuits while they are physically exhausted, I am not one of them. At times like these my writing takes a dive for the comical, but only in the sense that it becomes amusingly craptastic. So this past weekend, I allowed myself to take a break and relax for a while.
After this short break, I was ready to write again by Sunday evening, and I managed to replace the scatterbrained, overly-dramatic prose I had typed a few days earlier with something more concrete and relevant to my current story’s plotline. While some may label this as editing, I find it more appropriate to refer to it as getting back on track.
There is no shame in trashing something that takes you in a wrong direction in your creative process if it allows you to continue to make progress. Many writers (and other artists of various disciplines) spend too much time listening to their inner critics and get bogged down in the “not good enough.” Trashing work because you think it’s not good enough is different from trashing work that is simply wrong for the end goal.
Some issues are easier to fix in the drafting phase of a project than in the editing/finishing phase. Determining the difference can be easy once you learn to separate the transmission from the message. In writing, this means ignoring the sentence structure, word choices, and descriptions in favor of looking at the storytelling itself. If you’re a planner, you can tell if something fits your outline or notes. If your a pantser, you may need to spend a little more time rereading your draft as you’re writing. While we often want to get as much created when we have the free time to do it, sometimes slowing down can bring more benefits in the long run.
Wishing you all the best in your creative processes and may you make the progress that you need to influence your audience as you desire!