Hello, name is Erin Kelly and I am a critique partner and friend to the LadyScribes, an aspiring Regency writer, and for the last few weeks, I have been in revision hell.
You know the one: hair knotted on the top of your head, fingernails chewed to the quick, eyes gritty from staring at the same blasted ms for hours on end. The one where you find yourself so immersed in mentally hashing the plot, you can’t remember whether or not you already shampooed your hair when you're in the shower, or you accidentally lock your dog on the back porch and then proceed to drive her crazy by calling for her all over the house.
Yeah, that lovely little portrait has been all me lately.
Overwhelmed by the enormity of all the elements needing change, not to mention the short amount of time in which they needed to be done, I wasn’t getting anywhere. But this weekend I had a breakthrough. After hours—weeks, really—of staring bleary-eyed at my computer screen, desperately trying to keep the many versions of that particular ms straight in my head, writing and rewriting the same scenes, deleting and shuffling until I couldn’t remember what had happened when and to whom, I suddenly decided that I wanted to go outside.
I know, not the biggest epiphany in the world, but bear with me. I closed my computer, changed clothes, doused myself in bug spray, and headed for the dock. Since the evening boat traffic had died down, my husband and I decided to take the canoe out and get a little exercise.
As we paddled along, for once I didn’t think about when Evie would discover Benedict’s true identity. I didn’t mull over the timing of their first kiss, or obsess about how much of Benedict’s past to keep a mystery. No, as my oar rhythmically sliced the glassy surface of the secluded creek that feeds our lake, I simply soaked it all in. The perfect temperature, the cloudless sky, the sound of the canoe gliding over the water.
I marveled at the great, overhanging trees whose leafy branches reached to the water like outstretched arms, breathed in the woody scent of the forest and reveled in the near silence around us. Silence that, for the first time in weeks, my mind didn’t race to fill.
By the time we got back, I was happy, relaxed, and exhausted. Instead of dragging the laptop out, I spent a little time with my hubby and then actually got to bed at a decent hour. And wouldn’t you know it, a funny thing happened when I sat down to my computer the next morning. I felt renewed. I had stepped back enough that in a matter of moments, I knew what I needed to fix, and how to fix it. It was far and away my most productive day yet.
So here’s what I think. When we are most mired in the things that need to be done—be it new writing, revisions, or research—sometimes it feels like we don’t have the time to step away and take a moment for ourselves. But next time, try setting it all aside and doing something outside the box. That time we didn’t think we had may end up being the key to actually saving time—and our sanity!
I’m not out of the woods yet, but I no longer feel panic each time I think of what still needs to be done. I’ll get it done, and it will be great, and soon I’ll be on to actually writing new stuff again.
So tell me, have you ever found yourself mired in revision hell? Any tips on how to survive—or better yet, thrive?