Today my novelist friend said writing a book was like raising a child, because just when you learn how to handle a 10 month old, you have to learn how to handle an 11 month old, and just when you figure out one aspect of novel writing, a new challenge appears.
This has certainly been true for me. In writing my first draft, I edited what I had written the day before, then wrote at least 1,000 new words. But since finishing the draft, I’ve struggled to create reasonable daily goals for editing, and without them find it hard to feel satisfied, know when to quit for the day or to measure my progress. Also vexing is learning how to both create new work and edit existing work, tasks that use different parts of your brain and require different kinds of focus and energy.
In thinking about creating and editing, I have discovered a few things. My creator likes to work in the morning, as close as possible to waking, while in her pjs, before I talk to anyone or think about my “real” life. The creator likes to believe that nothing matters but the world she is creating, and this is easiest before the world interrupts. Having realized this, I’ve been writing new work first thing in the morning, consistently and easily meeting my daily goal.
Still I struggle with my editor. In fact, I had begun to hate and resist the editing process. But this week I remembered that I love to edit other people’s writing. I love getting a piece of work and tearing into it—rewording, excising and rearranging until it’s as strong as it can be. So if I love to edit, how can I learn to love editing my own work?
First, I’m going to pretend that the editor and creator are actually two different people. I’ll schedule separate sessions in which I will either create or edit, but not both. When editing, I will play with words, rearrange, and delete, but when I see a gap, I will merely note it for the creator, who will come back to work the next morning and fill the hole when she is ready. (She’s an artist, you know, you can’t rush her.)
I hope that with separate and reasonable daily goals for my creator and editor, and more of a separation of tasks, I will make more progress, feel better as I go, and love both the creator and the editor, each of whom I need to get the job done.