Three lessons from my summer vacation

I haven’t been blogging for the past month and I know that’s horrible of me and so I apologize. I also apologize to those who have visited and made comments that were waiting to be approved by me. I finally got around to approving them! Thanks for the support and the suggestions. I have so much to learn about blogging, so the little suggestions (when offered kindly as the ones I received were) are helpful in highlighting what areas I can improve.

Here are my excuses for NOT posting whether or not they’ll make a difference:

  • A trip to Montana to visit my family and friends. And I drove there and back. Alone.
  • Wanting to squeeze every last bit out of the remaining week and a half of my summer vacation when I returned from Montana. Apparently that didn’t include blogging even though it should have. School started for me Friday. The students return on Wednesday. I hope I’m ready!

But none of that has to do anything with the lessons that I learned. Well, except that two of them I learned in Montana, and the last one I learned while technically still on summer vacation, but those are tenuous connections, so you can ignore them.

Lesson #1: Too much writing is good for you.

This lesson comes from a plaque my parents have hanging in their house after they completed some renovating and redecorating. The plaque had some cutesy “playroom rules” and the one that stuck out to me read “Too much reading is good for you” which came right after “Too much TV is bad for you”. I could not agree with a sentiment more. I have been a reader all my life. Being an avid reader is what lead to my desire to be a writer.  And to me, too much reading leads nicely in to too much writing. A person can never write enough. (I know that I definitely don’t write-or rewrite-enough.) The more you write, the better your writing is. I’ve been writing creatively since grade school, and as I look back on some of the pieces that I wrote, I can definitely see how I’ve grown and improved as a writer. It’s inspiring and a great reminder that I am a somewhat talented writer. I know I have more growing and improving to do, but I’m better than I was yesterday, or yesteryear.

And don’t forget that golden rule that the more you read, the more it improves your writing. So go ahead. Read and write too much.

Lesson #2: A good writer finishes what s/he starts.

I have a friend in Montana who is also interested in writing books. She’s started probably as many as I have. She mentioned to me one day as we were visiting that she finally feels like she’s ready to let me read what she’s written. (She is very flattering and complimentary of my writing. It’s why we’re such good friends. ~_^) I asked her if it was finished and she said she’s about 60% through her story, but that she wants me to look at it and tell her if it’s any good. My response to her was that it wouldn’t be any good unless it was finished. She argued that she didn’t want to waste any more time on it if it wasn’t worth finishing.

This boggled me. No story is worth wasting time on if you’re not going to finish. And an experienced writer knows that all first drafts suck. Seriously. That’s just the nature of first drafts.

So the lesson is: finishing that first draft is what’s important, and not how good or bad it is. A finished first draft can be revised, edited, tweaked, improved and rewritten. An unfinished first draft is nothing more than…well…pointless.

So finish that first draft. No matter what.

Lesson #3: The power of reading your work aloud, to yourself and others.

As both a writer and an English student and teacher, I have heard this advice countless times. I’ve even given it. But I don’t often follow it myself. It’s a pride issue. I feel like I’m so practiced at writing that I don’t need to take time to speak the words I’ve written.

This past Thursday I attended my monthly writing group meeting. I’ve been very frustrated with the current section of my story that I’m trying to revise. It just doesn’t seem to be meshing and it hasn’t felt right no matter how I’ve tweaked and rewritten it.

Thursday night I read one chapter aloud to the group to get their thoughts on it. It was amazing. Immediately I began to see some of the problems for that chapter specifically and for the section as a whole.

And as the first thought of what I could do to improve that section of my book began to form in my mind, one of the group members said exactly what I was thinking. Getting immediate confirmation like that is nice.

The ladies mentioned a few other things that I could do to improve the chapter and every suggestion was helpful and rang true. It was a great feeling!

Then after the meeting I had to go straight to bed and then get up the next morning and actually go to work. And spend time Saturday afternoon in my classroom prepping for the new school year.

But when I finally sit down to tackle that section again, I already know that I need to do to make it better.

So if you’ve ever got a piece of your writing that just won’t bend to your will, read it out loud. Share it with a group. You  just might be surprised at the problems you suddenly find that you couldn’t see before. And the outside suggestions will definitely be helpful.

What writing lessons have you learned that you found valuable or insightful?

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3 responses to Three lessons from my summer vacation

  1. Donn Romito

    Learn to think of reading as listening with your eyes. I have seen many people catch something when listening that they miss when reading. If you ;have to read it more than once to make sense of it rewrite it. It is not clearly written. Establish common ground with your reader. Do not make the mistake of thinking they have the same understanding of the words and terms you use, Explain them. I have listened to people arguing because they each think the other is disagreeing with them. The problem was they each had a different understanding of the words and phrases the other was using. When someone else stepped in and explained what each of them was saying they realized they agreed.

  2. Valerie Ipson

    All great advice!!!

  3. Reading out loud, YES!!! That is probably my #1 lesson from various writing/critiquing escapades this past year.

    Thanks for this post! Well written!

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