Writing Lesson Learned

Reflection should be well-timed,
rather than time-consuming.
Elizabeth Kostova
The Historian

Back in the late 90s when I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation I stumbled on a little writing trick that has served me well ever since. I break up long projects into pieces (yes, dear writing teachers using an outline). Then I break the pieces into smaller pieces and if possible in to even tinier bits. For my dissertation I had 107 chunks of writing. Then each morning or evening when I sat down to write I would glance at the list and find something that interested me that particular day.

Now you might think that you would write the easy parts first or the ones that you really were interested in and that eventually you would be faced with a remaining pile of unwritten pieces that you had rejected several score of times in the past. For me, at least, that did not happen and has not happened since. I really try to avoid long projects that don't interest me through and through. So some mornings I am more than willing to take on the heavy dialog sections and some evenings the interior psychological musings seem to be ripe for the writing.

Recently I have discovered that thinking about my writing has a similar quality. It almost never works to try and think through a particularly troublesome section of a chapter. Best to leave it alone, not to reflect on it at all. I know the pieces of the puzzle are floating somewhere in my mind or occupying the nearby ether and they will come into view if left to themself and my unconscious receptors.

So don't push the reflection, it tis after all reflected brilliance and sometimes the reflecting surface is subject to cloud cover with the chance of partial eclipse.
photo by Richard Adams