Last weekend I was in Bewdley, Worcestershire, finding out about the Repair Cafe they have there (for an article). Repair Cafes are a worldwide scheme, originating from one location in Holland in 2008 and exploding into over 1200 locations worldwide today.
The idea is simple: instead of throwing something away when it is broken and buying a brand new replacement, see if you can get it repaired. Their success rate is high. When Bewdley’s Repair Cafe first opened its door a year ago 40 people walked in with broken items and 38 walked with repaired pieces.
It reminded me of a query I once had from a student who was troubled about what to do for the best: keep working on two short stories that she couldn’t sell, or to give up on them and write something new.
If only we had a Repair Cafe for writers’ broken projects. Well, actually, we do. Other writers.
The idea behind Bewdley’s Repair Cafe is that you bring along a broken item, and you’re allocated to a repairer who has some expertise in that product. They will then take apart the item in question, identify the fault (repair it, hopefully) and put it back together again. So broken clocks are allocated to clock specialists, electrical equipment is allocated to electricians, and clothing and material items are sent to seamstresses.
There’s no reason why you can’t do something similar with your writing. Having problems selling an article? Ask another article writer to cast their eye across it to see what faults they can discover. Written a short story but feel it doesn’t quite work, but don’t know why? Ask a fiction writer to give it the once over.
There are many ways you can do this. If you go to a writers’ circle then ask someone there to be your ‘repairer’. If you’re a member of a Facebook group specialising in writing (of which there are several), ask other members for help – you can always message people a copy of your text (rather than posting it all online for everyone to see).
I hate giving up on a piece of writing. If I’ve gone to the effort of creating something in the first place, then I want to do whatever I can to make it work, rather than throwing it away and starting again. And I’ll keep repairing it until it works, even if it ends up looking completely different to its original format.
Some repairs are quite minor: changing a location or character in story, or swapping a couple of paragraphs around in an article. Others may be more drastic: rewriting the second half of a story, or cutting an article from 2,000 words to 800.
One lesson I learned from the Bewdley Repair cafe is that more things are repairable than you might first think. And that goes for our writing projects too.