This February here on The Blood-Red Pencil we’re celebrating a month of The Care and Feeding of the Writer. Okay, actually it’s supposed to be the second half of the month, but since I only post in the first half I thought I’d get in my two cents.
I looked at this topic from two viewpoints. The first is from the writer’s POV. We tend to sit our behinds in a chair and work. And work and work. We type furiously, sometimes literally. Sometimes we only have twenty minutes or maybe an hour or two. Some of us may have all day. Doesn’t matter. We sit and we type, getting up only to fix lunch, which we bring it to our desk and eat in-between typing. We breathe stale air (there is no time to go outside) and hear only the coded ring that alerts us a child is calling (husbands know better). As one writer to another, I beseech you:
Step Away from the Computer.
Sit down at the table or outside on the porch to have lunch. Spend five minutes relaxing on the couch, lost in thoughts not related to the book. Pet the cat. Walk the dog. Call your grandmother. Remember, you’re more than a stressed writer.
But wait. I also look at this from the editor’s POV. I’ve sent manuscripts back to writers whom I know open the document and either scream or collapse in their chairs. Sometimes there are so many marks, comments and highlights, they run together and bleed over onto the next page. Oftentimes, it’s the first page that this happens on. Why the first page? Because this is probably the most important page. It’s the first one seen by an agent, a possible publisher, the reader. It cannot have 52 uses of the word “was.” Rather than just saying that, I highlight each one, point it out to the author, suggest alternatives, page after page after page. Yes, I know I’m causing you stress. But you can work on the problems. You can send it back to me for another read. You rarely get to do that with an agent, a publisher or a reader. So, my Editor advice is:
Step Away from the Computer.
Go get something to drink (I suggest something non-alcoholic, even though alcohol will be tempting). Don’t fire off a curse-filled email to your editor - and, yes, that is probably even more tempting. Go for a walk - I suggest not with the dog since your blood pressure may not be able to handle his attempts to run into the high weeds as he chases a skunk. You might want to wait until the next day to reopen the document and, this time, read the comments and suggestions calmly.
As The Writer, you are responsible for your Care and Feeding. And that, oftentimes, involves Stepping Away from the Computer -- at least until you can breathe without screaming.
Helen Ginger is an author, blogger, freelance editor and writing coach. She teaches public speaking as well as writing and marketing workshops. In addition, her free ezine, Doing It Write, which goes out to subscribers around the globe, is now in its thirteenth year of publication. You can follow Helen on Twitter or connect with her on Facebook and LinkedIn – or catch her April 30, 2011 at Books 'n Authors 'n All That Jazz in Weatherford, Texas, where she and Sylvia Dickey Smith will be talking about “Jazzing Up Your Characters.”