Self-Editing: 4: Self-Edit With Fresh Eyes, Mind, & Body

Self-Editing: 4. Self-Edit With Fresh Eyes, Mind, & Body
By Norma J Hill (aka Pen and Paper Mama) © 2021

In our previous series for writers, we discussed and provided worksheets for “Self Exploration For Writers,” “Your Writing Life,” “Author Considerations Beyond Just Writing,”  “Planning Your Writing,” and “Editing Levels.”  In this new series, “Self-Editing,” we will explore:

  1. Self-Editing Your First Draft
  2. Some Practical Self-Editing Tips
  3. Overcoming Fear of Self-Editing
  4. Self-Edit with Fresh Eyes, Mind, and Body
  5. Writing and Self-Editing Tools and Resources
  6. Your Self-Editing Team
  7. Do I Really Need a Self-Editing Team?

At the end of each post in the series, there is a link to a downloadable and printable PDF copy on which you can write your responses. Put them in a binder or Duotang-type report folder (you can continue to add to your binder from the previous series). Then, periodically along your writing journey, return to your answers, read what you noted previously, and add new thoughts and experiences. Through this process, you’ll end up with a wonderful record of your writer’s journey.

4. Self-Edit with Fresh Eyes, Mind, and Body

Do your self-editing work at a time of day when you are wide awake and energetic. The more tired you are, the less effective your self-editing will be. If you must do self-editing after a long day of work or study, take a refreshing break of at least an hour or so before starting. Editors take brief eye, brain, and body breaks, usually about every hour, so they can continue editing with an alert mind and fresh eyes. You need to do the same when you are self-editing.

Some tips for your self-editing time

Set an alarm clock or timer for the period of editing that works best for you. For some people, this may be as little as a half-hour. Others may work as much as two hours without a break, but when you are starting out, stick to a half-hour to an hour of self-editing at a time.
 
Decide how long your break should be. An hourly five- to ten-minute break may be enough between self-editing sessions which last four hours or so. After that, take a longer break that includes a healthy meal and exercise. Whatever break time you decide on, get up and do something different.  
Avoid the following break activities: Social media, email, or other screen activities aren’t great break ideas, nor is reading unless it’s something light and entertaining. These activities also tend to take up much more break time than you planned for. Save them for when you’ve finished self-editing for the day. You need a genuine change of pace between your ongoing self-editing sessions.  
Instead, during your breaks do things that clear your head and are unrelated to your self-editing work. Changing your location and engaging in physical activity will freshen your body and mind and provide you with editorial distance.  
Experiment: Try out different activities for your shorter breaks and figure out which work best for you. Self-editing, especially for book-length projects, will take many hours, possibly spread over weeks or even months. It may take, overall, quite a lot longer than the initial draft writing.  
Possible short-time brain break activities include:

– a few stretches, yoga or other exercises, or a walk around the block or bike ride around the neighborhood
– a simple chore like washing dishes or laundry, or watering the garden
– taking the dog for a short but energetic walk
– chatting with a family member or a friendly phone call (but watch your time)
– sketching, colouring, word searches, or other relaxing activities.
– eating a light, healthy snack. Google “brain foods” and see what’s listed. Choose something you like and that gives you energy.

Choose easy activities and don’t do them for over five to ten minutes; you’re resting your brain, remember. Also remember: It’s important to keep hydrated while you self-edit and during your breaks. Water is excellent; caffeinated, alcohol or sugar-laden drinks not so much. Avoid drinks that dehydrate you.  
Some longer-term breaks include:

– a healthy, nutritious meal, but not an overly heavy one or you’ll just end up wanting to have a long nap
– a longer walk, particularly in a park or nearby wilderness area or through gardens—places that will invigorate and inspire you
– a period of relaxing meditation.listening to music. It will engage your brain differently from self-editing.
– other artistic, creative activities, such as dance, role-playing, pottery, crafts, wood-working, playing an instrument—activities that don’t take a lot of deep thought or focused eye use-
– a nap of 20 to 30 minutes (longer naps can leave you groggy)
– longer chores, such as more time in the garden or tidying the house. Choose ones that won’t wear you out, though.
 

If you find at the end of a break that you are still tired, are having a hard time focusing, or have sore eyes or a headache, it is probably best to come back to your self-editing the next day or at least a few hours later on the same day.

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