Thursday, June 11, 2009

Let It Rest

My hobbies tend to center on food -- wine tasting, bread making and coffee roasting, just to name a few. One of the things they all seem to require is patience. Quaff a Ribera del Duero right out of the bottle, and you’ll think you’ve swallowed a mouthful of tannic pine sap; it takes almost an hour for it to loosen up and let its true flavors float to the surface. Rushing my semolina sourdough into the oven results in aromatic bricks; you can’t hurry the proofing process. Home-roasting retailer Sweet Maria’s tells me that their espresso blends like a little time; some don’t reach their peak for nearly a week. I usually don’t mind kicking back and waiting until any of these are just so. Why then don’t I like to wait on my writing?

You know how it goes. You have an idea for a story, some really fascinating hook, and you pound it into shape over the course of four or five revisions. Then you send it to a couple friends so they can have a turn wailing on it. They do, and you polish up a rough spot here or there, completely familiar with every line and plane of your project -- and completely sick of it, if you’re anything like me. You’ve had three more great (or at least different) concepts cross your brainpan in the last week. You want to fire this thing off to an editor and be done with it.

This oh-so-predictable pattern got broken to a million pieces for me over the past few weeks. I had eviscerated an old short, rebuilt it almost from scratch, and mulled over it so much my objectivity went off to stay at mother’s and refused to take my calls. But a couple of trips to the hospital later, the story was the farthest thing from my mind. And when I finally had a moment to go over it again, something odd happened. Errors my eyes had glossed over leapt out at me. Sections that had sounded tone deaf now felt more natural. My objectivity showed up at the front door with flowers in hand. Seems food isn’t the only thing that rewards patience. Fed up with the sight of your own work? Let it rest.

(Picture: CC 2008 by
Jim Blob Blann)


ollwen said...

". . .my objectivity went off to stay at mother’s and refused to take my calls."


Also, I definitely know the feeling.

Loren Eaton said...

It wouldn't call, it wouldn't write. It was quite upsetting.

And thanks for the compliment!