Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Pushing aside doubts and stepping out of our comfort zone

Earlier this week, I got busy in the kitchen baking muffins for breakfast. As I read the directions, I puzzled over one line: "Gently press streusel on top of the batter." Why should I do that? I thought. Wasn't it enough for the streusel to even be on the batter? Still, I shrugged and did as instructed. Only then did I see the wisdom of following through with such a thing: It helped "set" the streusel into the batter better, instead of coming off down the sides as the muffin tops rose in the oven.

Watching this little mystery get solved, it made me think of how too often a writer will be in the very same situation. This usually happens when an editor suggests the writer change or remove something from their work. The writer would respond with the exact same thought I had while preparing those muffins: Why should I do that? Additional reactions to just such a request are:

"But it's supposed to happen that way."

"But that's what he said."

"I don't want to take that out, I like it."

"The writing is too good to throw away."

But, you know what? You're not really throwing away anything. You are only changing things around a bit. Nobody said you have to delete everything you remove from your writing. Save it for another time.

The important thing is to just try it and see. Think about why your editor suggested you cut something from your writing or how it would make your piece different. Try to put yourself into the editor's shoes. Instead of rejecting the suggestion outright, just try it first and see what happens. Play around with the suggestion or even improve on it.

As a writer, we sometimes need to step out of our comfort zone and try something different to improve our work. We may not understand why we should try this at first, or even how it could make our piece better, but just taking that leap and giving it a shot is the only thing that matters. Just try that suggestion and see where it leads you. It just might inspire new ideas.

Before I end this post, let me quote book coach Judy Cullins, whose article on overcoming doubts I read today and I thought this quote applied to this advice well: "Ask if your doubts are really true."



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