There is great strength in reviewing our recent pasts. Since hindsight is 20/20, we have a clear vision of where we are and where we have been. Here are a few ways I have been using reflection on the past to improve the present.
I have had a hard time identifying the weakest scenes in a manuscript. This week I put all the scenes on 3x5 cards, color coded the highlight points of my story, and laid them all out in order. Then it was easy! I could see what my chapter outlines weren’t showing me: plot holes, incongruities, and weak scenes. I think I could not see those things in an outline because the scenes psychologically feel so fixed on paper to me. Index cards are things I think my brain knows I can toss, add to, or rework freely. Now I’m working on cutting out those scenes and replacing them with stronger story moments. It has made revision not such the slog it has been so far on this book.
The biggest crusher of my soul in the day is my tendency to overwhelm myself. Sometimes I go to bed so discouraged I haven’t crossed off all I wanted to accomplish. But if I consistently spend 5 minutes each day recording 3 good things about the day, I am much happier. Sometimes those things are things I have accomplished or am grateful for, others are cute things my kids did or said. The latter may not be an achievement, but indirectly it helps me reaffirm I must be doing something right for them to be such wonderful people. Some days this list comes easy. Some days it’s like pulling out an ingrown hair. But if I look, I always find the bright spots! An additional benefit to this habit is I have a ready-made journal for my children to someday help them remember the beauties of their childhood. (And a way for them to get to know the inner me a little better.)
Every January and September I set major goals for myself. Sometimes they get accomplished, sometimes other priorities win out as the year goes on. I get discouraged. Almost every December and August. Until I review my year and write down all I DID accomplish. Often it might not be what I set out to do but it is often what I SHOULD have done.
Life moves forward and sometimes we run to stand still, so the more joy and enlightenment we can squeeze out of the jog, the better. For a Type A personality like me, pondering on the past helps me live with a lighter heart in the present.
Q4U: Do you review your recent pasts? (Or re-map your manuscripts, for you writers out there?) If so, do you think it helps you?