Don’t Open The Door

Chocolate soufflé

Image via Wikipedia

Ever made a soufflé?

Me neither.

But what’s the one thing most people know about making a soufflé? Never open the oven door while they’re cooking.

Why? Because the sudden rush of cooler air can make the soufflé deflate.

Ever write a story?

Yeah. Me, too.

Ever dash off that first draft all excited-like and give it to someone to read? Or even not finish that draft, but start talking about the story to anyone who will listen?

Did your story deflate?

Yeah. Mine did, too.

We let the air (read: other people’s opinions) rush in and deflate our stories while they were still cooking.

Once a story is deflated, it can be grueling work trying to pump energy back into it again. More often than not, it’s easier to abandon that work for another story that hasn’t been spoiled.

This has been one of the worst pitfalls for me as a writer. I mean, stories are exciting, aren’t they? And when writing is going well, I want to shout about it to the world. Hey, look at this chapter I wrote! Look at this story! If it wasn’t exciting, why would I spend time writing at all?

I suspect this is a pitfall for others, too. When I’m at conferences or workshops, I hear writer after write natter away about what they’re working on. It makes me wonder how much they’re really writing. Because I know for myself, the more I talk about what I’m working on, the less I actually work on it.

Slowly but surely, I’ve learned to keep the door (read: my mouth) shut. To not deflate my stories. To take them out of the oven only when they’re done. To let others have a taste only when I know they’re ready.

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