All right, I’m gonna talk today like I wasn’t gone for four months.
So we all agree that an important part of your writing is to edit. Incredibly boring and tedious, yes, but still important. But something that I didn’t realize for a long time is that editing something shitty doesn’t get you anywhere. Sure, you feel productive because you’re editing, but you’re not getting better. It’s frustrating, actually.
The key, Skywalker, is to get better (look at me using Star Wars names like I know what I’m talking about).
This is something I didn’t pay much attention to until I gave the rough draft of my thesis to Dear Sweet Gentle Jonathan, my own personal professional writer. I was desperate, for one, and I found myself having to send it to SOMEONE or risk it not being approved by anyone. And while his comments weren’t mean or made me question what I have spent two years of my life doing, he did make me think about one story in particular. It was a story I wrote during my first semester, in my first class, of this whole Master’s degree business. It was good for what it was at the time; a mediocre story written by someone who simply had no idea what the fuck was going on. I put it in the thesis because I thought it fit and it did, in theory. But it needed work. A lot of work. I didn’t see it because, I don’t know, I was lazy. Or I was forcing it to be something it wasn’t. Whatever the reason, when I did the overhaul of the story, it was so fucking much better that I could not even believe I was going to let the original version through. I was also extremely embarrassed that D$GJ read it, but he has seen me during worse moments, so, I got over it.
Anyway, my point is, sometimes in order to get better, you have to stop editing the crap, step back, and realize that you’re wasting your time. Maybe the reason why you’re editing so much is that you know, on some level, that whatever you’re editing just does not work.
It’s not a fun thing to discover, to be sure. I had a mini panic attack and a long swig of boozy coffee (in a TARDIS mug. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you don’t need a TARDIS mug in your life). It sucks because it’s actually a realization that you have the capacity to write something that wasn’t perfect the moment you thought of it. It’s admitting to yourself that you have, really, grown as a writer. Whether it be from taking classes or experiencing various things or even reading a bit more.
Trust me, though. If you’re stuck and don’t know why, maybe it’s an unwillingness to change. A failure to understand that who you were when you wrote a paragraph can’t possibly be who you are when you’re ready to be finished with that paragraph. What you have written in the past could be good, but that doesn’t mean it’ll reflect how good you actually are. The only one stopping you from being better is you. And a lack of boozy coffee.
A lot of problems could be solved if everyone sat back and had a boozy coffee.