The other day, my oldest daughter was drawing and growing increasingly agitated by her work. I offered encouragement, but I could see the pot of frustration was nearing a rolling boil. Sure enough, within minutes, the drawing was slashed with colored pencil marks and then, just to be clear that it was indeed not working, crumpled and pushed off the side of the table, out of sight.
In the first few seconds after its dismissal, my daughter seemed okay with her decision, then the tears began to flow. Now, she said, she had nothing. Of course I’d tried to intervene at one point, suggested the drawing was wonderful and to maybe set it aside and move on to something else, to not throw out the baby with the bath-water, etc, etc. All those very helpful cliches that everyone loves to hear after they’ve eviscerated their paper doll.
It’s not so different when we write. I think one of the hardest things to do when we are writing is to know when it’s time to walk away from something that isn’t working. Sure, we tell ourselves, “fight through it!”, as if taking a breather from work that is clearly not going well is some sort of failure. I disagree. After decades of crumpled pages, I think sometimes the best (and the hardest) thing you can do is to step away from that screen.
And the greatest part is, you don’t even have to go very far. Sure, if you have the time/space/opportunity, go right ahead and march around the block, but it can be enough just to step out of the room, to put a wall between you and that page, and let the words mellow.
So whatever you do, don’t delete that scene just yet, and don’t abandon that WIP. I promise you it’s not as bad as you think it is. But of course, you can’t know that until you get up and just walk away.
And you might be surprised at what you come back to find.
How about you? Are you able to just walk away–or does someone have to come over and pull the plug for you before you can bear some distance?