11 February 2013

“sleepover!”: why you should sleep on your chapbook collection

The Our Lost Jungle CB Challenge: "Sleep On It"
Over the weekend, your Chapbook Challenge task was to check out No Silence in the Fields, a chapbook by Rachel Mennies, and consider some of the organizational choices you need to make for your chapbook. The weekend was also a chance to get caught up on the first two tasks: getting your work organized, and selecting a theme stack and gathering 30 pages of material to use for your chapbook. Today, we’re going to jump right into the task at hand … and if you’ve missed any of the past three tasks, you’ll probably appreciate this one!

Today’s task is to have a “sleepover” with your chapbook’s 30 pages. Unlike a typical sleepover, which involves spending time with your guests, this task calls for you to … ignore. Set aside. Sleep on it. Your task is simply to put your work away and not think about it for at least 24 hours.

There are three key reasons sleeping on a chapbook collection is an important step in what we’re doing during this challenge. Let’s briefly take a look at each!

feelings … whoa, whoa, whoa

Sleeping on your chapbook selection allows your initial feelings toward your work to simmer and marinate. When it comes to how you feel about your chapbook, you don’t want to be overly critical of your work. It’s easy to look at the pages you’ve gathered and start thinking that it’s all, to put it mildly, garbage. Sleeping on it gives you time to accept that the work you have is worth working with. You also don’t want to be overly protective of your work. Pieces you love are often harder to edit, revise, or place honestly. Sleeping on it gives you time to accept that the work you have isn’t perfect, and can still be played with.

shifting gears

Sleeping on your chapbook selection also allows you to “shift gears” when it comes to the role you’re playing with your work. It’s important to understand the difference between the work of the author and the editor of your work. As an author, it’s your job to write the work and lay the foundation for the complete work to come. As an editor, your goal is to build the framework for your chapbook and ensure that the foundation is structurally sound. And here’s the thing … You can’t wear both hats* at the same time. Don’t try to! By sleeping on your work, you allow yourself to more gradually change hats.

celebrate good times come on

Finally, sleeping on your chapbook selection allows some of the initial stress of starting a chapbook to wane. Give yourself at least a night off from the work of chapbook-ing. Furthermore, take that time to celebrate the work you’ve accomplished! You’ve taken a ton of work and weaned it down to 30 pages. You’ve sorted your work into manageable themes, topics, or potential collections. You’ve done a lot already! Sleeping on the chapbook grants you a little more room to revitalize yourself after this work, so that you can be eager—rather than anxious—to proceed!

the task

While you sleep on your chapbook, I’d encourage you to spend the time on relatively stress-free activities that will still inspire and energize you. Read through a few new chapbooks or collections in the genre you’re working in. Reread one of, or a few of, your favorite chapbooks. Go for walks, if that’s what inspires you. Or maybe you’re like me and the very act of not working on your writing makes you all the more eager to get back to it! The one goal of the next day or two is simply to give yourself a break from what you’ve done so far. Enjoy it, and enjoy the anticipation of getting started with the structural organization of your chapbook on Wednesday!

*Note: Thanks to S.E. Ingraham for catching a typo. Under "shifting gears," it should read "You can't wear both hats" ... not "hates."

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10 comments:

  1. This is such good, good advice Khara - I read it through a couple of times. It wasn't until about the third time I noticed a typo in the "Shifting Gears" section that I think is also a kind of cute Freudian slip where it says "...you can't wear two hates at once..." and that's so appropriate isn't it? Because when you're looking at your stuff critically - it seems it doesn't matter whether you're wearing your editorial hat or your authorial hat - chances are, you might start being overly hard on yourself and really hating some of your work ... But even better to sleep on it, as you say ... thanks Khara.

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    1. Good catch! Hopefully we don't "hate" the roles of being both authors and editors, but I love how to turned that error into a good point--it's hard to avoid not becoming that wrathful critic when it comes to our own work! Thanks for catching that blooper, and for somehow making it work! :)

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    1. It's a writing habit I fully admit needing to better cultivate... ;)

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  3. Putting it down and walking away - only 24 hours? Sure that is enough? It is hared to separate the "hates". Hard not to be an editor while you are writing. Oh, those voices in my head pretty much hate what I write.... I think they just need chocolate....

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    1. That's a good question and good point. Generally speaking, 24 hours is probably not enough; in fact, given the time I'd prefer, say, a week away from a manuscript to let these things happen. For the sake of this challenge 24 (actually 48, if you count Monday and Tuesday) hours is what we're working with ...

      ... but the good news is that the next three tasks (thinking about the "crown," "slippers," and "robes" of our chapbooks) are tasks a writer could technically do without switching hats. And if need be, anyone could presumably do those three tasks together, giving more time to sleep on the manuscript! :)

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  4. I do this a lot. I think I picked up the tip from Stephen King's ON WRITING. He said something like six months after a completed WIP. I probably do it too much, though. I let the MS of my first chapbook sit for 4 months before I went back in, rewrote, and revised. I'm all for sleeping, I mean taking breaks. Plus, it does help to step back from a project, however long it takes.

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    1. Sometimes the long break is really necessary, and a good thing. I think whether a day or four days or four months or a year, however long it takes to get in the right mindset to proceed with a big project, we as writers should feel okay taking it!

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  5. This advice applies to any kind of writing! Articles, novels, pitches, even blog posts. You put your best work into the world when you've had a chance to step away from it and read it again with fresh eyes. Thank you for reminding us of this, Khara!

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    1. Thanks so much! And you're so right ... the "fresh eye" approach to just about any writing project is so worth while!

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Thank you so much for your comments! Please feel free to share your thoughts here; I look forward to engaging in conversation with you!

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