Lately, I’ve been contemplating the difference between writing and editing. I mean sure we need our brains for both tasks, but doing them requires something very different. And although I am not tackling the entire process of editing right now, I wanted to share something with you about writing, to help you get over the fear of trying to create something great as soon as you start.
It’s not a myth or a secret weapon, however, because we should all be familiar with the process of free writing. I am mentioning it here, because by using it you can get around the problem of procrastination, and it may also help you to turn off your internal sensor. The one that often dictates that you must be great.Or perfect. Or extremely competent. The one that sometimes stops us in our tracks, and derails all our good intentions.
In his novel, The War of Art, Steven Pressfield called that force resistance, and urged us to continually show up and do the work, while Peter Elbow in his novel, Writing with Power suggests that the writer should, “Just write, trust, don’t ask too many questions, go with it.” I agree with both of them, and one way that I have found to do this was suggested by Natalie Goldberg in her novel, Wild Mind, where she encourages writers to do different tasks such as free writing.
My favourite free writing task, is the one called I remember, to do it you can write things about your past, things of course that you remember. For example, I remember that one summer in ’99 where I went with my parents to the beach, but what I remember best of all was being thrown into the deep end and my brother telling me to swim. As if it was so easy for a beginner. As if I had already learnt to tread… You get the point, just go with it. Allow yourself to write for ten minutes straight without stopping. Or editing. That is the the small move you make, allowing yourself to write without being too critical. Don’t stop, just allow yourself to write. Do the work.
This is how you may start off writing bad, and eventually get good. The truth is when you first write you don’t really know how bad or good the work is. In fact you might second guess it and think it’s really bad, but if you give it a few days or weeks, or months depending on your own method of editing, you might find something that speaks to you. Something that comes directly from your core that you may not even remember writing. But to do that you have to turn off that sensor first. The one that Goldberg calls the ‘monkey mind.’ That is the thing that makes you see everything as either bad or good.
Remember though that it takes time and space and distance to get over yourself and your ego. So that you can see the work for what it really is. Or as a friend of mine pointed out a few years earlier, for what it might become. Give yourself the time and the space. Be patient with yourself, the same way you would be patient if it was the writing of one of your friends. Take the leap of faith. Believe in yourself and the work. Trust me, it makes all the difference. And when you put down your writer’s hat and become an editor it might be best to start with intention. Ask yourself: What am I trying to do (or say) here? Is it clear to the reader? And if not jot down what seems wrong, and draft out a possible edit.
The thing is the mindset of the writer, will always be different from the reader’s so your approach will also have to be different. But before you go from writing to editing remember to put a block of space between the two tasks, and trust yourself enough to know that once you get it all down the first time, thereafter you can polish it up to make it better. But focus on one task at a time, be it writing or editing, and try not to rush when you get closer to the ending.
Have a fantastic week and keep writing!