Leave It Hanging… To Begin Again

By Michael Schilf · January 21, 2011


So you finished the scene, and you feel damn good about it. And why not? Completing anything is a great thing. But then you look at the next scene on your slate; it’s a hard one – a revelation/reversal, tons of emotion, tricky execution – so you give yourself a pass: “I’ll do that tomorrow.”

We’ve all been there. It’s easy to push something – especially if it’s an entirely new scene – onto the next day. The fact is, however, that very often, it can be torturous to start anew each day. It feels overwhelming, and so we go back and revise what we’ve already completed. There’s nothing wrong with rewriting – after all, the best writing IS rewriting – but it makes little sense to spend copious amounts of time rewriting something that we have yet to complete.

I am a huge proponent of writing the first draft fast – and I mean NASCAR fast. Literally, don’t look back until you reach the checkered flag. There will be plenty of time later to revise, revise, revise. The challenge, however, is to dedicate yourself to moving forward from day to day. And one of the best ways to continue, ironically, is too leave it hanging. Try leaving a scene unfinished, even a sentence half written. It’s a great place to start the next day – much easier to begin where you left off than to embark on something brand new.

If you’re someone who has a hard time getting back in the writing saddle each day, consider creating a writer’s schedule determined completely by page count and not by total writing hours, but when I say page count, I mean an exact page count. If the goal is five pages a day, and at the end of page five you are in the middle of a sentence, literally stop there. Trust me – you will be looking forward to finishing that sentence – you might even dream about it – and as soon as you sit down to write the next day, the words will flow right out of you.

Leaving it hanging allows you to begin again without missing a beat. It’s that initial shove that gets you started, but one that propels you the rest of the way.