Frittering Time? Misha Herwin

I am at the moment deep into an edit of my next novel, “Shadows on the Grass.” It’s intense work, needing a great deal of concentration with occasional breaks for muttering rude comments about my brilliant editor, Jan Edwards, who has this horrible habit of being right.
Once I’ve digested what it is she suggests I do, I go back to the MS and sweat a few more ounces of blood.
          All this is taking a great deal of time. Some writers I know find the editing process both stimulating and fairly quick to do. I am not one of them. Re-shaping my work wears me out, perhaps because I am only using the rational and not the creative part of my brain.
          On an instinctive level, I must know that this is not right for me, because while I should be working on the next chapter instead I find that I am awash with ideas for new stories that are simply demanding to be told.
          The conventional wisdom would be to finish one task, before taking on anything else. It would certainly be less stressful, but that doesn’t seem to be the way I work. It’s as if I need to keep flexing my creative muscles and when denied that opportunity my imagination goes into overdrive. So far, during this edit, I’ve finished a ghost story for an anthology and started work on a novella, written a few blogs and mulled over a concept for a children’s book.
          So am I wasting time, or am I keeping my skills honed? 
          Natalie Goldberg in “Writing Down the Bones”, which is the best book on writing I’ve ever read, say, “It’s good to go off and write a novel, but don’t stop doing writing practice. It is what keeps you in tune, like a dancer who does warmups before dancing or a runner who does stretches before running. Runners don’t say, ‘Oh, I ran yesterday. I’m limber’. Each day they warm up and stretch.”
          The short stories, the novella are all part of this stretching and warming up. Pianists practise their scales daily, writers need similar exercises. As for me timed writing exercises might just be the thing to trouble shoot one or two troublesome passages. I think I might go in search of a pen and notebook…


JO said…
I scribble a page every morning, when I wake up. I wouldn't call it 'morning pages' - it's far too scribbly for that. It's as much a way of saying good morning to myself - but it also reminds me that I'm a writer, even when there's too much Life around to write much!
Fran B said…
Your post cheered me up immensely. I'm in a self-imposed year of NOT writing my next novel (concentrating on marketing the just-out one) but I still am doing lots of writing things like monthly articles for two mags, editing a quarterly journal, writing a series of special short stories for my recently bereaved, age-six goddaughter, blogging, etc). As you say, it all flexes those writing muscles and nourishes my self-image as a writer. And, hopefully, when I sit down on 1st Jan 2018 and get into the next novel - which is bubbling away under the surface now - I will be all warmed up and ready to roll!
Umberto Tosi said…
I concur heartily. The editing stage of writing is the most boobytrapped for me, with constructive criticism disguised as toxic doubts - and, even worse, vice versa. Natalie Goldberg's "Writing Down the Bones" impressed me deeply as well. Good luck with your project. You will get it done, well, no doubt, judging from what you write there.
Debbie Young said…
Gosh, lots here resonated with me, both in your blog and the comments. I find the editing completely exhausting, to the point of feeling physically as well as mentally and emotionally drained, but I've also discovered that writing the whole first draft first and then editing massively is the most productive way and effective way for me to work, so it looks like I'm stuck with it. But I've also found morning pages really helpful in kickstarting the writing engine each day, no matter how scribbly, even if they're sometimes just glorified versions of my to-do lists or things that I'm worrying about. I haven't read the book you recommend but am off to download it now - it could just hit the spot as I'm about to being my final, final, final edit of my next novel, "Trick or Murder?" (Sophie Sayers Village Mystery #2) Great post.

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