GOOD ADVICE THAT I HAVE COMPLETELY IGNORED:
"Don't look back until you've written an entire draft, just begin each day from the last sentence you wrote . . ."---Will Self
"If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word."---Margaret Atwood
"Write drunk; edit sober."---Ernest Hemingway
"Well, crud. That paragraph I just wrote is crap. Hold everything . . . gotta fix it RIGHT NOW! Oh yeah, and that sentence too. Can't I figure out a better word here? Where's the damn thesaurus? Oh look! A squirrel!"
WHY MY REACTION SUCKS:
Constant editing dams up the creative process, turning a torrent of ideas into a hesitant trickle. When I'm struck by inspiration, I should be riding the wave, splashing words onto the screen. Instead, I'm constantly back-spacing, fixing misspelled words, bad punctuation, garbled phrasing, you name it. All of these things can be corrected later. After all, if I spotted it now, I'll certainly see it in the rewrites.
Not only do I spot-edit, I also tend to write and rewrite the same chapter over and over before continuing on to the next. This is just plain dumb. I have spent hours polishing the perfect scene, only to completely change it later, or even discard it. Until the first draft is finished, I have only the vaguest notion where the book is going. Characters may evolve, or even disappear. Action occurring later in the book may render that earlier chapter ridiculous. It's kind of like building a house: you'd better get the foundation, wiring, and plumbing finished before you decorate the room.
WHAT I'M GONNA DO ABOUT IT:
Ooh, this will be a tough habit to break. Even in my art, I usually eschew the common practice of under-painting, preferring to finish each section before moving on to the next. It works well for me, requiring just a little touch-up at the end. But painting is entirely different from writing in that I KNOW what the finished artwork should look like. It may sound weird, but my stories change as the characters come to life (definitely a subject for a later blog post!).
It will take constant effort for me to just write, muting my internal editor. Even now, I keep scanning back on what I've written, correcting it before continuing. Well, guess what? There's an app for that! ILYS is a word processing tool that only shows you the last letter you wrote. No options but to keep typing until you hit your selected word count. I'll download it and let you know how it goes.
I'll probably cringe when I go back to read my stream-of-consciousness prose, but I'll keep in mind that golden nugget of wisdom imparted by Mr. Ernest Hemingway: "The first draft of anything is shit."
As a writer, I am the perfect example of what not to do. Granted, I'm new at this, but you'd think I'd listen to the hard-earned lessons experienced by famous authors. There are books and websites in abundance that aim to teach aspiring writers how to avoid the most common mistakes. I've read several of them. Have I taken heed? No. Not yet, anyways.
GOOD ADVICE: "Just write every day of your life."---Ray Bradbury
"Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration. The rest of us just get up and go to work."---Stephen King
"You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can't edit a blank page."---Jodi Picoult
MY REACTION: "Oh man, really? Every single day?? Who knows what I'll feel like doing today. I'll write when I'm inspired . . . unless something more interesting comes up. Hmmm, what's new on Facebook?"
WHY MY REACTION SUCKS: As many authors have noted, writing is a skill, like learning to play the tuba, or building the perfect martini, or becoming beer pong champion. It requires practice. In the course of writing my first novel, I actually did improve the farther into it I got. My grammar was refined. I laid off the adverbs and clichés and the word 'very'. I tightened up the dialogue and pepped up the action. All good, right? So why my resistance?
Honestly, I hate schedules. Now that I'm retired, I'm blissfully happy to let my days drift into their own free-form haze. Requiring myself to sit in front of the computer every single day, inspired or not, gives me a creeping sense of horror.
WHAT I'M GOING TO DO ABOUT IT: Putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) doesn't have to mean working on my next book. It could be writing a short story, or a journal entry, or a shopping list. (Just kidding about the last . . . although creating an intriguing, suspenseful grocery list would be a fun bit of homework!)
I sincerely doubt I'll be writing every day, especially since I'm in the process of moving, but I've started looking for opportunities that pique my interest. Last week, I submitted a short story for a contest in James Patterson's Masterclass. I will also try to post at least one article a week on this website. I've made it easy on myself, topic-wise, as there are many, many mistakes I'm making as a writer. This is just the first confession in a shameful series.
We'll see whether or not I learn my lessons!