|Flickr Credit: Moyan Brenn|
It isn’t always the fact that it takes a really long time, or that all the problems with your writing jump out, or that you hate your characters, or are getting really tired because it’s 11:49PM and you’re trying to hit your word count for the day. These all contribute to the daily dose of misery, of course, but they aren’t always everything.
For me, everything is the fact that editing is nothing new. I begin editing by rewriting the manuscript four or five times (and I draft short, which is why this is also necessary). I just make my ideas longer. A first draft, “He was short” becomes “My brother was three inches shorter than me” becomes “Yogi had the misfortune to be named Yogi and be three inches shorter than his younger sister, me.”
But that’s a deceiving process. Even when I wrote that tiny first draft sentence, I already had the third draft idea rocking around in my head somewhere. Maybe I hadn’t vocalized it yet or didn’t know how to phrase it, but I had the concept down. My editing is not really “writing” in the sense of creating something—it’s more like broadening a concept until it makes sense to me and others.
I have never named one of my characters Yogi, by the way. Yogi is my neighbor’s dog.
Anyway, broadening concepts gets boring after a while. There’s only so long that I can bear to review the things I already have in my head. When that happens, I feel like I hate all writing. And writing was a struggle over this last week, when I’ve been trying to get my latest draft finished before the end of June. I learned these things:
a) just because it seems like you hate writing doesn’t mean you do
b) if it seems like you hate writing then it’s possible you just hate broadening concepts
c) one way to remind yourself that you like writing is to freewrite
Freewriting. I don’t date my work (the creative stuff, anyway) so I can’t give an exact time period, but I’ve made almost my entire writing life about editing for months. I didn’t freewrite. And it was terrible.
I like writing because it is fun to make new stuff. Among other things. I don’t really have any other thoughts on that—it just needs to be said. Editing is about making that stuff better, but is often less fun than the actual making. And focusing on the editing can be a little depressing sometimes.
For some reason I picked up a notebook and I freewrote. It was incredibly enjoyable. And I am making note of its enjoyable-ness, so I don’t forget again. Because it matters.
I encourage you to freewrite, too. I don’t care if you throw it away or turn it into a novel. Just remember that sometimes, writing is fun not because you make it better, but because you wrote out the crap in the first place. And you will love that crap because it is yours.
What could be better than that?