Avoid Obsession With Your Writing

During some interview a few years ago, (I don’t recall with whom) country star Dolly Parton mentioned what she thought was a key to a strong marriage. I don’t remember the exact quotation, but the gist of it was “staying away from each other.” She was being sarcastic to an extent, but she wasn’t only joking. She went on to mention how she spent half of her time on the road performing, and so she and her husband had plenty of chances to miss one another, and fewer chances to get on each other’s nerves, and fight about things.

It makes sense. If you are in constant company with another human being, even one you love, chances are you will eventually want to strangle them. You may be obsessed with them and their presence for a while, but if you are never apart you run the risk of resentment. As with most advice, it won’t apply to everyone, but my guess is that most people, especially married people, can relate on some level to Parton’s sentiment.

I think we can apply this approach to writing as well, making sure we put some space between ourselves and what ever our WIP (work in progress) is at any given time.

I don’t just mean after a rough draft is completed, either. Many people put a rough draft of something, especially a novel, in a drawer for a month or two before beginning edits and revisions. Yet I think we authors also need some space from what we are currently writing.

Yes, there are those people who live up in every way to the stereotypical crazed author, who eats, sleeps and breathes their WIP. People on TV morph into their characters, everything someone says to them is potential dialogue for their work, and the very clouds and stars seem to position themselves in such a manner as to project aspects of the author’s work back down upon them from the heavens.

Then there are those of us who are mentally stable.

Okay, that was facetious to some extent, I know. Any author can find themselves for a time wrapped up in their work to such a degree, and it doesn’t mean they’re insane. However, if this is how they always are…

Give yourself a chance to fall in love with your work all over again, or to at least find it freshly baked each morning, like donuts at Duncan used to be in the good old days. (before they started serving sushi, or whatever it is they do now.) I realize how popular the “butt-in-chair” same time every single day method is in regards to productivity, and without a doubt it has its benefits. But if butt-in-chair makes your own work stale to you, and you begin to resent having to deal with it each day as you would a girlfriend that is never more than six feet from you all day and all night, you’re going the wrong way.

If you have an office for your writing, great. Write in there, and when you leave the office, leave it. Scribble down an idea that may come to you outside, but leave it at a scribble until you return to your office. Let you WIP become like an old friend you only see once in a while, so it is more special when you return to it later on. Allow yourself to rediscover your WIP each time you sit down to it.

If you have no office to write in, keep yourself at a distance from your work in other ways; write in a cafe that takes you at least a short drive to get to, so there is some build to the session. Refuse to write in your WIP during the last week of the month. There are a million ways to obtain this same end, which is to enjoy dancing with what you are writing, as opposed to hooking yourself up to receive it as a constant IV drip 24/7, or worse.

Or something else. As with any advice, what I say here must be applied in your own way, if applied at all. This may not be for you, I’m not arrogant enough to think I have all the answers for everyone.Yet beyond a certain point, obsession, with anything, even our own work, leads to darkness of some kind or another, and that is a human psychological fact. So, don’t be obsessed, whatever that means to you.

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2 Comments

  1. Laura W.

    If not for the first draft, taking some alone time from your wip is good for the editing stage at least. There’s a tendency to get so close to something you can’t see the forest for the trees (and don’t revise effectively as a result).

  2. True. I was getting there with the novel near the end of the final drafts.

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