Don't Look Back

 Word count: 297                                Reading time: 2 mins

Years ago my friend Valerio, who was a bit of a petrolhead, used to joke, “I don’t need a rear view mirror because it doesn’t matter who’s behind me.”

 When I write, I look back often to see how I arrived at where I am. Sometimes this is a pitfall that stops me from advancing the story. Maybe that’s why other writers, probably all of whom finish NaNoWriMo in five days, don’t touch their work until it has reached SFD status.  

 Editing is just another part of writing so it’s a non-issue, right? Maybe not. Some people will revise a scene five or ten times while major parts of the book hang like a giant blank canvas. Editing allows them to avoid the steep hills in the road: advancing the story, pulling together the threads of the plot, and developing a compelling denouement.

Still I can’t imagine starting the next part of a novel without reading some of what I wrote the day before. This practice invariably sparks some tinkering and often proves that editing, when done properly, can take more effort than writing. When my rolling revisions stop the work dead, I know it’s time to consider ways to start it again.

At the 2010 Surrey International Writers’ Conference, the marvellous performance artist Ivan Coyote led a session called Writing Boot Camp for Procrastinators. One of her suggestions was to either cover the screen as you type or to change the font colour to white so you can’t actually see what you’re laying down. Her point was that creative potential shines strongest when it’s unfettered, particularly when it's unfiltered by fear.

Do you throw away your rear view mirror and ignore what you’ve already done? How do you push through to the end of your story?

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Photo: Drew Hadley