Perspective on Writing is a Fickle Thing

Monday, April 11, 2022

Ask me today how I feel about a certain story of mine and I'll answer differently if you ask me next month. I've been working on revising a short story of mine and it's been a challenge. Yesterday was the first time I looked at it in a month, and I thought it needed quite a lot of shaping up. The plotline was solid but there were other factors that made me feel a bit "blech" about it. It made me think of how perspective on writing can be incredibly fickle.

You see, I also rant into a flash fiction piece of mine that I had long since written off as being unworthy of publication. When I read it over the weekend, I thought to myself, "Wow, this really isn't that bad." The same can be said of a short story I wrote several years ago, also that fell in the category of "not really that great." After some polishing, I am now re-submitting it for various lit mags. 

I'm a huge proponent of distance from writing and getting a fresh perspective. It can reveal things about a story that you really didn't see before. It can cut both ways too. You may realize something wasn't as terrible as you first thought, and you may discover something wasn't as great as you remembered.

If you have finished a story, whether it feels "blech" or amazing, give yourself some distance. It's an important part of the writing process where you quietly extricate yourself as being the writer of the piece and become the reader instead. I've discovered this can be important if I'm stuck on a piece too. By removing myself with distance, even letting years pass at times, I return to it with a fresh perspective. I can see something in it that I never did before.


Sue Bradford Edwards said...

So true! Often, by the time I reach the end of a lengthy ms., I loathe it. But then when I spend some time away from it and come back, "This isn't so bad. This part is actually really good."

Of course, there are also those other parts. Ahem.

Nicole Pyles said...

Ha no kidding! I love it when I'm nicely surprised.

Marcia Peterson said...

Totally agree, Nicole. Time reveals the good and the not-so-good. It's exciting finding some good stuff in our older writings though. Fun!

Angela Mackintosh said...

Great post, Nicole! Last NaNoWriMo, I pulled out a bunch of freewrites from 2017 and rewrote them into essays. I let them sit for a while, then sent them to an editor for suggestions, and now I'm ready to rewrite them. It doesn't matter if years have gone by. Time and distance add perspective to raw writing. I'm also finding scenes from old pieces that can be reworked into new pieces, and it's exciting to recycle work that you thought was "not really that great." Keep at it, Nicole! I always love hearing about your short story updates. You are the queen of revision! :)

Renee Roberson said...

Good point, Nicole. I also feel like taking time away from a piece gives us a more nuanced perspective when we come back to it. Of course, this is coming from a writer who hates revision and often abandons my creative work if I don't "succeed" after a few attempts, so I'm not sure how much my opinion matters. Ha ha!

Cathy C. Hall said...

I, too, am all for giving a bit of distance to writing, Nicole. I *think* that might go back to my laziness re:revision; I'm only willing to revise so much before I get bored and/or mad at the writing. :-)

Nicole Pyles said...

@Marcia - so true!

@Angela - I love when I can recycle an old piece! And thank you for the encouragement!

@Renee - haha, but hey you never know when you're perspective may change about revision!

@Cathy - I TOTALLY understand that feeling!

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