Sunday, April 1, 2018

April 2018 — Break the perfection habit and stop editing as you write

For 2018, all the monthly topics have been submitted to me by writers and readers of this blog.

The question asked this month is  "How can a writer break the perfection habit, or are there ways to stop editing as you go?"

The fastest way to kill ideas is to edit as you write. 

The fastest way to erode your confidence in getting a project done and doubt your ideas are any good is to edit as you go. 

And the fastest way to stifle productivity is to stop and dwell on a sentence for two or three minutes. That's lost words and lost time. For instance, if you typed 50 words a minute, in those three minutes you have lost 150 words. If you stop every five minutes for three minutes, that means in a hour you have lost 21 minutes (at 50 words per minute that equals 1,050 lost words).

Obviously, editing as you go is destructive. Yet, to understand why a writer is compelled to stop and edit and re-edit sentences or paragraphs or pages, a writer first needs to understand WHY they are compelled to seek that perfect sentence, to use the perfect words, or to form the perfect description.

Two reasons come to mind. The first is fear. The second is logic vs. creativity. 

The fear a writer has lies in the misguided belief that what they are producing isn't good enough, brilliant enough, or that it's the worst kind of drivel or garbage.

This, of course, is a negative message that has to be stopped. The fact is, you cannot judge a work until you have written (drafted) the entire piece and distanced yourself from the story. Once the story fades sufficiently, you can go back to it—with new eyes and a better frame of reference. Then you can look at what was written and better judge the flow and impact of the scenes. It's the old can't see the forest for the trees syndrome. So, keep this mantra in mind when drafting anything you write—done is better than perfect.

As to the second reason, the curmudgeonly problem of editing as you go is firmly rooted in the battle of logic versus creativity. In other words, the two sides of the brain are at war. 

Here's the thinglogic will always—ALWAYS—trump creativity. So in order to become a producing writer of quality stories, it's far better to write creatively as quickly as you can and get that first draft committed to paper. Once it’s down, then you can turn lose the logical brain and take all the time you need to give full attention to editing for the good of the story. (Your readers will appreciate that.)

Now, there are ways to shut the logical, critical tyrant self down and create a story. One of the best ways is to turn off a computer's monitor. That way the eyes cannot see and thus the logical brain cannot judge the words going onto a page.

A side benefit from doing this is that a writer can slow down and concentrate on the imagery the subconscious (imagination) sends up for the story. Even stop-frame analysis is possible because the image can be held longer and better action sequences can be recorded.

Yes, this works for those who touch-type. And yes, when the monitor screen is turned back on the writer will see typos. Some will net hilarious spellings, but it's always good to laugh.

So, I challenge you "perfectionists" to test what happens when you turn off the monitor and write for 10 minutes. Post the results to this blog and I'll send you a free Writers Cheat Sheet on "Functions of the Imagination." 

****Next month: May 2018 —  Why are stories rejected by editors, agents, and readers?

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