I’ve hit the ‘fire wall’ of the editing stage. And no, I’m not talking about my super not-so-secret computer ninja that fights off all of those pesky viruses that attack my computer from the myriad of research sites I’ve visited (I’m just saying, some don’t seem sketchy until you’ve visited the home page. Then that back button can’t be hit fast enough). No, what I’m talking about is a phenomenon that all writers, nay, all creators, will inevitably face. It’s that phase where you look at your work, read through all of that time and effort, all of the blood, sweat and tears that you put into your project- and you want nothing more than to toss it into a fire pit and light it up. Dance through the ashes wearing nothing but your war paint.
They say its natural to question the validity of your work, that this stage is all a part of the process. And while I appreciate the sentiment, that doesn’t make it any less frustrating to look back on my old projects and attempt to sift through them, to pinpoint the elements that just don’t feel right. I don’t even know where to start. After the past few weeks, I am pretty sure my face will be permanently pinched in this position:
I will admit, I was discouraged. After all of this time, how could my writing still feel so sub-par? I know what makes a good book, I know what that spark feels like as a reader; so why am I still unable to capture the magic and portray it the way that I want? Or am I just being too hard on myself? I wont know, because I wont let anyone read it until I’ve given it the green light (are you starting to see my never-ending vicious little cycle here?) It wont be good enough until someone can tell me how to make it better, and I will never let them read it until I’ve made it good enough. I am Sisyphus pushing my boulder with pure dedication.
In an effort to keep myself from hitting that delete button, I decided to look at this problem from a new angle. I’ve been working really hard with my writing, attempting to hone my skills and get better. I plug along every day, even when I don’t have it in me. I started putting myself out there and writing this blog- which has done amazing things in terms of discovering my own voice in my work. These projects that I am currently editing: they’re older. In fact, the one I’m in the process of slogging through right now is several years old, it was one of the first full novels that I finished when I got back into my writing. So instead of being frustrated with how sub-par it feels, perhaps I should be proud of how far I have come.
Reading through my old work shows me that all of these miniscule steps I am taking every day are actually paying off. I am making progress and I don’t even realize it. I am able to see where my voice feels forced, where the story doesn’t flow, where the word choice is too stiff. I’m finding elemental issues that I hadn’t noticed on previous revisions. Through my efforts I am becoming a better writer. And while that means that I will have a bit of an uphill battle waiting for me during these editing forays, I cannot forget that they are difficult because my writing levels are surpassing my previous skill set.
I am not the best writer that I can be, not by a long shot. But I’m getting there. So instead of being frustrated, I am going to be proud. I will open up that old document and tear it apart with gleeful abandon. Because I know that it will be better, because I know that I am better.
Sorry friends, the bonfire is canceled for today (although I am sure I will attempt to re-schedule it in another week or so when I start in on editing the next novel).