The Importance of Time Away from Your Project

After my friend and colleague, Susan Brown, told me I wasn’t anywhere close to finding the emotional honesty or depth I needed to write my memoir, I flew home to California and decided to quit. There was no way I could possibly do what Susan was asking me to do. It was too hard. I didn’t have the skills or ability. No way could I dig that deep and reckon with that much truth. I’d been in therapy for years and years. I’d been working out my relationship with my mother for decades. Could I really go deeper? Could I find the honest, raw, funny voice that Susan said I needed to really tell this story?

I was certain that I couldn’t. Years of work were about to crash and burn. There was no way I could pull this off.

That night, I wrote to my friend and colleague, the editor David Colin Carr, and told him I was giving up on the book.

The next morning, David wrote back. “My suggestion is to take a month off to enjoy Karyn, the grandkids, more spacious days. The best weather is about to happen – enjoy having a body while it’s there for you to enjoy. Take a day trip, a road trip, shake out the dusty corners of your soul. Let the process digest you, instead of you trying to digest it. Love, D”

And that’s what I did. I took time off. I focused on other things. My family. My grandkids. My friends. I let my mother-daughter story rest. I walked away. And months later (or was it a year later?) when I finally returned to the book, I took Susan’s words, “It’s the courage to reveal,” wrote them in big letters and stuck them up on my office wall. I stared at those words every day. I took them as a challenge, a watchword, my new north star.

And you know what? The next draft was dramatically improved. My portrayal of my characters—and me—deepened and grew in complexity. Susan’s tough love worked.

The Burning Light of Two Stars is now available for presale. When you buy the book before its release date, you help me by generating interest with reviewers, librarians, and bookstores. To read about the great presale bonuses you can get, hop over here.



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