July 17, 2013

Recognizing the Trade-Off, Part One

Posted in music and writing, Revising tagged , , at 3:12 pm by Rebecca Hein

Often writers fiddle too long with their sentences, trying to purge them of mistakes or no-nos such as misused commas or too many adverbs. But this doesn’t always work.

Sooner or later, you notice that in improving one part of a sentence or paragraph, you create a problem somewhere else. Thus you trade one difficulty for another, and sometimes just have to decide between the two. If you don’t accept this reality, you end up with the feeling that you’re trying too hold too many ping-pong balls underwater.

One is always popping up, no matter what you do. The answer is not to grab at that one pesky ball and try to push it under again, but to work with the reality of the process.

October 31, 2012

Self-Exploitation, Part Seven

Posted in self-exploitation, Success tagged , at 3:36 am by Rebecca Hein

During all the years I was writing columns for the Casper Star-Tribune, and slaving to make each piece the best it could be, I wondered more and more why I was so willing to exploit myself.

Then, just a few weeks ago, I landed a $500 writing assignment from a local editor. He knew my excellent work from my years of newspaper columns; therefore no discussion was needed about whether or not I was qualified for the job.

Then, and not before, I saw that all my past insane—or at least totally impractical—self-exploitation was not what I’d thought at all. Rather, I’d been investing in myself the whole time.

July 11, 2012

Evaluating Your Own Work, Part Two

Posted in First Drafts, organizing your writing, self-evaluation tagged , , at 10:11 am by Rebecca Hein

The multiple distractions of evaluating our own writing help to explain why this is such a difficult job. Small mistakes jump out at us; then we have to stop and fix them or make a note to come back later. Larger problems of structure and writing style also emerge, bothering us with the indecision of “Do I try to fix this now, or continue reading?”

I can’t count the number of times I’ve sat down with a chapter or a whole section of a current manuscript, planning to read it all the way through to try to get a sense of the whole, then being sidetracked by all the small yet important problems I encounter.

March 16, 2011

Saturation, Part One

Posted in Saturation tagged , , , , at 10:29 am by Rebecca Hein

Saturation occurs when a musician practices for a performance, polishing the music beyond perfection. This level of work so immerses you in your material that your attention sinks below the details of playing every note and phrase. Then you can notice deeper elements, and your performance reflects this unconscious ease.

It’s the same in writing. Lavishing all your ability on a piece; reading and revising it so many times that you don’t even have to think about it, will give that project and your whole writing output a gloss and polish you can achieve in no other way.