Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Take a Break by Andy Scheer

Sometimes the best technique when you’re stuck in a writing project is to step away from the keyboard.

I spent much of last month performing a heavy edit on a large nonfiction project destined for self-publishing. The content was deep and theological — often supporting positions I didn’t. Worse, the writer was not a polished communicator.

Most days I found I could track the writing for only a half-hour before I stopped being able to disentangle his prose.

So I applied the strategy I’ve learned with jigsaw puzzles. When I can no longer make sense of a particular part, I get up, stretch, and switch to another side of the table.

Not all of that works with a writing project. If you’re stuck in chapter 7, it’s hard to skip to 17. But it sure helps to get up, stretch, and allow your mind to attend briefly to something else.

One of my techniques involves music. Not only do I play instrumentals to help me concentrate, I play it in a format that forces me to get up often.

While the LP in LP records stands for long-playing, they usually provide no more than 25 minutes on a side. Perfect timing for getting up, walking to the record player, and flipping to side two or putting the album away and deciding which to listen to next.

A minute or two later I’m back at the keyboard — and the solution to the next sentence seems obvious.

Don’t have a turntable? Then keep a cup of your favorite hot beverage next to your screen and force fluids. You’ll have to get up often, and the ideas will also flow.


Timothy Fish said...

I think I would have a very hard time editing someone's work if I disagreed with their theological position.

Rick Barry said...

I can relate. Weighty subject matter combined with convoluted writing demand more frequent brain breaks for the editor. I used to edit articles for a theologian who often mixed his metaphors. (Ex.: "Have our hearts grown so cold that our thoughts don't skip a beat when placed eye to eye with God's Word?") I groaned frequently (and took frequent breaks) as I untangled these knotty sentences.

Andy Scheer said...

It comes with the territory in editing professionally. It's best viewed as an opportunity to see how that position supports its views.

Andy Scheer said...

I want to take a break after reading just that one sentence.

Anonymous said...

I can relate. My shoulders tend to tell me it is time to move away from the editing.