Put it away for a month. Whether you are writing novels, picture books, or poems, you’ve probably been given this advice. Put your work away. Gain some distance. Then it will be much easier to see what needs to be fixed.
And it’s good advice when you have the time and space to take it. Unfortunately, if you are doing educational writing that happens to be work-for-hire, your deadlines tend to be tight. You know you don’t have the right word. A phrase is rough. Something just isn’t working. But you don’t have time to put it away for a month because you have six weeks from start to finish. You might find the time to clean the bathroom (oh joy) but then you’re right back to it. Hopefully swishing the porcelain clean was all the break you’re going to need because it is all you’re going to get.
About 2 weeks ago, I started playing around with a new preschool poem. You can read about it here. It was originally a type of poem known as a Golden Shovel. Mine was a riff on a Poe’s Eldorado. To put it mildly, it did not work. Three lines just wasn’t long enough to develop the rhythm or any type of rhyme scheme I liked.
Version 2, written the next day, was 8 lines long. Or at least it would be 8 lines when I managed to fill them all in. Day 3, I filled them in but the rhythm was a bit off.
Day 4 it was almost there but . . . nope. Some word just wasn’t quite right. I’d change one word and then change it back. Then I’d fiddle with a different word. I suspected that I was on the verge of doing more harm than good so I put it away.
After a break of about a week, I got it back out this morning. Coffee cup in hand, I changed one word in line 3. Line 4 wasn’t quite right. I stared at that for a bit, changed 2 words. Changed one back. Changed the other to something brand new. It took me maybe 10 minutes. Ten minutes to fix what I’d messed around with for 2 days.
Distance. It really does help.
I wonder if it would have gone quicker if I’d set it aside for a full month? Just kidding. But I do have another week to ignore it before I show it to my critique group.