There’s a saying in the restaurant industry:
“Who closed this place last night?”
Which basically means, why was everything left a mess, why were tasks left unfinished, why are things put back in weird places?
The thing is, with revision…you’re the only employee (before you share your work with others). So you get to close and open your work.
Then there should be closing protocols, right?
By this I mean — rituals or requirements for how you end a writing session.
Often we get caught up on getting started or getting back into something. But one of the most important ways to develop momentum and a sustainable writing practice is to be conscious of how you are ending and evaluating each writing session.
Where are you leaving your future self?
Are you leaving your future self in the same sticky scene where you’re not sure where to go next?
Are you leaving them in the middle of a chapter that you just got demoralizing feedback on?
Are you leaving them right before your favorite characters kiss?
Are you leaving them at the threshold of a new setting?
When you finish a writing session, bring yourself to a point of change. This isn’t the same as a stopping point. A stopping point is when you decide to stop.
But when you leave your text at a moment where the setting changes, or a fight is about to ensure, or your favorite character gets their moment to shine — STOP right there and leave that good stuff for your future self for their next writing session.
That’s how you really make writing addicting. Move your story into a new place each time you touch it.
It’s not always easy to get through a tough scene or section. Hold yourself to this standard, though, and see what new problem-solving skills get activated. You literally cannot stop until you move yourself out of this sticky place. Maybe you need to delete that section entirely, then. Maybe you need to restart it in a new way.
Just try it out. It’ll be tough the first time to push through and solve your problem in the same writing session. But when your future self arrives in the doc? They’ll have something new to do and new ideas to play with. They’ll be pretty happy with whoever closed the place.
This is the final installment of mini-essays leading up to Finishing School in the Fall.