As writers, we push ourselves to keep learning and improving. Writing workshops. Courses. Conferences. Critiques. We jot down ideas. Write the outline. Finish the draft.
But when do we pause? After all that craft work…after all that writing…do we ever take a few moments to sit and take in all we’ve learned? Do we check to see if it’s working for us? Because with all that effort put into our craft, we must be getting better at it, right?
Not taking time on a regular basis to process all we’ve absorbed through honing our craft—be it from a workshop or a critique—is one of the foremost disservices we writers do to ourselves. Yes, we certainly try applying what we learn, but it’s just as vital to stop for a bit and review all those writing suggestions and strategies we’ve gathered. Take some time—whether it’s once a month or after you finish a draft—and dive into your folders and file drawers. Pull out those notes you’re taken and handouts you’ve received from conferences and workshops. What suggestions have you implemented? Which ones have you avoided? Then look at your writing. Have the tips you’ve implemented strengthened your work? Perhaps you prefer your original version. And what about those strategies you haven’t tried? Maybe they seemed too difficult, or too time consuming, or maybe they’re not a good fit for your writing process. What if you use a style or suggestion that’s out of your comfort zone to rewrite a paragraph, a page, or a chapter?
Sometimes all the information we take in while honing our craft can be overwhelming. And we can’t possibly apply it all. But remember to stop. Take a breath. Then pull out those handouts and notes and read through them. Pick a few strategies you want to try. Review your writing based on what you’ve learned. And get your money’s worth out of all those enrichment opportunities you gave yourself.