The Perils of Self-Editing
Let me ease the mind of all of you who have embarked on a new journey of choosing to write a book and are now hesitating in front of a blank page waiting for the perfect sentence to flow out of your fingers, or are reading what you’ve just spent hours writing only to think it is complete and utter rubbish.
To write is to rewrite.
No one writes a perfect first draft from beginning to end in one fell swoop. It has often been said that writing a book is 20 % writing and 80% re-writing. Once you have written what Anne Lamott lovingly refers to as the “Shitty First Draft” in her book Bird by Bird, you are then in editing mode. During your first rewrite, you will go back and layer in all of the elements that were missing in the first go around and ruthlessly slash all of the parts that are not in service of the premise of the book. You will then repeat this process looking for flow and continuity and anything you missed during the first rewrite.
None of what I just described is self-editing.
Self-editing is when you write the first ten pages, and then you go back and rework those few pages to make them shine, and then you write another ten pages, and then you go back to the beginning and now work on those twenty pages to make them shine, and then you write ten more pages, and then you are caught in this never ending loop of perfecting the beginning of your book and never actually getting on with putting the whole book out on paper. I can’t tell you how many women I meet who say they’ve started writing a book but never finished. More often than not, the reason it’s thanks to the self-editing circle around the drain.
Self-editing is often the practice of letting your inner critic write a book, or as Stephen Penfield calls it in his book The War of Art—Resistance. What we need to do when writing that first draft from beginning to end is to connect to your inner knowing, your higher-self, your stream of consciousness, your muse, and just plow through. Print off a picture of Dori the fish with the caption “Just keep writing, just keep writing, just keep writing, writing, writing.”
Here’s a Master Class tip:
If you have the strength of character and the will power not to self-edit, something that I have found immensely helpful for my productivity levels is to leave off one writing session without completing a thought or closing a scene. The next time I sit down to a writing session, I don’t have to think up what ought to come next because I just reread the last few paragraphs WITHOUT SELF-EDITING and continue writing from there. Before I know it I’m back into the flow.
If you are one of those women who’ve started writing a book and never finished, we need to talk. Book be for a one-hour consultation because you deserve to call yourself a published author and the world deserves to receive your important message.