In the Writer’s Chair: Why Futzing Means Move On

I’ve been tinkering away on a new project lately–one I will chat about soon–and I realized that it’s been a while since I talked about the writing process itself. And what came to the forefront today was … futzing.

When I say futzing, I mean, tinkering with the same sentence 10 different ways, when the rest of the paragraph, or even the whole section, is otherwise done. When I say futzing, I mean playing around with where to break a paragraph, or adding or subtracting one or two words I’ve been tinkering away on a new project lately–one I will chat about soon–and I realized that it’s been a while since I talked about the writing process itself. And what came to the forefront today was … futzing.

When I say futzing, I mean, tinkering with the same sentence 10 different ways, when the rest of the paragraph, or even the whole section, is otherwise done. When I say futzing, I mean playing around with where to break a paragraph, or adding or subtracting one or two words in a string of dialogue.

Typically, I try not to move on from a section until I feel that it’s in good shape, but sometimes I can linger, I can overstay my welcome. So when I get to a point in the writing process–like I did today–when all I’m really doing is futzing, it’s time to move on.

So how do I know when I’ve spent the right amount of time? A-ha. Well, it’s different in every situation. It’s a feel thing. Either a section works, or it doesn’t. Writing is one of those truly subjective experiences, where 100 different people can have 100 different takes on the same piece of work.

And then there’s the question of why I’m futzing so much. Sometimes it’s because I don’t quite have a feel for it, and I’m not confident that I’ve hit all the right notes, and if I just hang around, inspiration will come. And sometimes that’s exactly what happens. Then again, sometimes I’m just tired, or otherwise distracted, and am off my game. So when I futz with the writing just to stay connected to it, and then I’m usually back on track the next time I sit down.

And yet other times I’m procrastinating. I know I don’t know what comes next, or there’s a difficult bit I need to work out that I just don’t want to tackle yet, so futzing is a way for me to be a chicken! It’s my way of hiding, from ducking my storytelling responsibilities. If I spend session after session futzing with one section, I don’t have move on to the next. Ah … good ol’ procrastination.

But that doesn’t last either. Ultimately, when it’s time to move on, I do. So I’m done when … I’m done. And today I was futzing … for the third writing session in a row … so I figured, yep. That’s it.

Time for the next section. Until the next bit of futzing comes along.

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