“Here’s an antidote for a writing slump: Record yourself reading a polished passage from your working draft. Go ahead—don’t be shy. Choose the one that is like a celestial harp strumming in the background when you first composed it because it’s so good, the one that gives you goose pimples and brings tears to your eyes. It only gets better when you hear it out loud, off the flickering computer screen. It’s not vanity. We may not be giving ourselves license to celebrate what’s actually working on the page. Despite my own nasal Chicago accent, I relish hearing successful parts of a draft. It’s a necessary affirmation, welcoming me back into a project with a vigor and promise that I can produce more of the magic—again and again. It reminds me I am good at this.
I started recording early chapters or sections from a short story as a way of revising: I listen back for what reverberates, what doesn’t quite land. I glean the clunky sentences from the ones that roll off the tongue. But really, I’m celebrating the potential for a story’s first splendid sentence to its supreme ending.
Trust me and listen to yourself.”
—Sahar Mustafah, author of The Beauty of Your Face (Norton, 2020)