When Liz and I were on retreat earlier this month, we spent a lot of time discussing our WIPs. At one point she read me something she’d just written and said, “I really love it. That’s so nice when you like your own stuff.”
I had to agree. I have to confess, I am one of those writers who needs to do that—read what I wrote previously in order to get into writing mode. I sometimes wonder if that’s because I’m an editor in my heart (and in my day job), but I don’t think I’m the only writer who works this way. I’ve tried just picking up where I left off and plowing ahead, but I simply can’t work like that.
When I’ve been away from my story for more than a couple of days, rereading even just what I wrote the last time I was working on it brings me back into that world. I get into the story again, feel the characters again, maybe even discover something that needs to be changed or added to that previously written material. It’s a reacquainting process that, for me anyway, is necessary to continue writing
But to get to the rest of what Liz said—the “I really love it” part? That struck a chord in me because so many of writers are shy about saying those words about their own work. I think because in some weird way we have been programmed not to praise our own work, and isn’t that silly? Naturally we are proud of a novel we’ve spent months writing, but to say those words out loud feels self-aggrandizing, doesn’t it? When I say, “I love this story!” about my own WIP, I’m also saying, “I love my writing,” which is something I’d probably not confess to anyone but Liz and even then I’d reword it. “I really like these characters.” or “I’m enjoying writing another story in River’s Edge because it’s such a great setting.” Never the words, “I love my writing voice.” or “I love how I put words together to tell a story.”
It felt terrific to be starting a new River’s Edge story while we were on retreat. It was wonderful to fall in love with my storytelling all over again. Why does that always take me by surprise? Even though I love the editing work I do, you’d think I would realize that what makes life work for me is writing. That when I’m not writing, I’m not happy. How hard is that concept, really?
Fellow writer, Anne Stuart, once said, “Everything in my life is filtered through my writing. There is no me without it.” I have those words on a sticky note on my desktop to remind me how to fix the restless times, the times when I’m overwhelmed with editing and need to center Nan again, because you know what, I am a good writer. Liz is a good writer. We are great writers and we should own that.
Talk to me, writers, do you reread before you begin a new writing session? Does it help center you back into the story or do you just charge ahead with the story already moving along in your head?