You’re the Master Storyteller: On Writing & Editing Your Life

How to Overcome Heartbreak Without Projectile VomitingYour right hand lifts your coffee mug to your lips, and you take a sip of the beverage that will activate your editing sensibilities.

After the drink’s vessel rests securely back on your desk, you look at your computer monitor, blink a few times, and glance down at your keyboard as you fiddle with your mouse.

Since you’ve already completed a rough draft of your writing, improving it should be simple.

Nonetheless, editor’s block has plugged the flow of your creative juices.

How do we end up in situations that require literary Drano?

A rough draft is the first step in the writing process, but you must stay vigilant.

The words that we initially transcribe aren’t always the purest and most accurate manifestations of our intentions.

You get to manipulate your creation until it satisfies your vision.

The evolution of a document is comparable to the evolution of human character.

We encounter editor’s block in our writing for the same reasons we get stuck in life:

We’ve made choices that have produced a present unhappiness and don’t feel we’re capable of making new choices that will alleviate our frustrations.

We’ve fallen down a well, and there’s nothing but darkness.

We don’t know how to get out.

Writing is the activity of making choices about our lives.

These decisions can be as seemingly inconsequential as choosing an omelet over cereal for breakfast or as violently profound as choosing a career that will influence the majority of your adult life.

Writing is not necessarily easy. It requires thoughtful consideration and meticulous concentration.

Editing, however, is more difficult. Editing is the activity of altering a choice once we have discovered that it is not the best option.

Who wants to admit that he has made a poor selection?

The mindset of an editor requires a severe self-awareness and the aptitude to not only recognize weakness but also discover a way to overcome it.

You must murder the ego and seamlessly hide the body.

Your writing then transforms into prose that effortlessly aligns with your identity without anyone ever knowing the crime took place.

Editing is sneaky.

The Development Of Your Writing

You stop progressing when the fear of making a mistake invades and inhabits your mind. Doubt produces further inaction.

To avoid such dramatic behavior, we must examine our mistake-anxiety.

If you’re afraid of making mistakes, you either worry about External critiques or Internal criticisms. Perhaps both.

The arbiters will point out your achievements and failures.

Our emotions nod their heads at positive feedback, but do not linger around them for extended amounts of time; they clench onto negative remarks, burning and searing them into our minds.

No wonder we don’t like making mistakes. The repercussions are intense.

But we have to get over ourselves.

We must consider our own judgments and the pleasure of pointing out the mistakes of others.

We may harshly criticize ourselves, but we can’t forget our compulsion to also turn our assessments outward.

Instead of victimizing yourself as the target of criticism, the panoramic lens reveals that you are an active player in the game of opinions.

Luckily, you can use your preferences to improve your writing.

Reading frequently is commonly discussed as a way to develop your writing skills, but there’s one question that elevates reading from a passive activity to an actionable practice:

“Do I Do That?”

When you notice an aspect of someone else’s writing that you don’t like, can you relate that irritating quality to your own work? Do you do that, too?

If you like something you read, how can you learn from it?

You naturally make judgments of good and bad, and assume you have the authority to know what is good or bad, even when you’re not reading.

The truths that you tell yourself can positively impact your writing, or you can judge for judgment’s sake.

“Do I do that?” is a vital question as you mature as a writer.

The fear of making mistakes ends when you take responsibility for judging others the way you fear they will judge you.

Let the judgments transcend the External and contribute to your Internal development.

The highlighted, but uncorrected, mistake is more problematic than the mistake itself because the highlighted mistake implies recognition without the courage or competence to create a solution.

What You Know And What You Do

The inevitable mistakes that occur in your writing don’t have to be frightening, but they do require you to make decisions.

You have to give up the content you’ve already written in pursuit of crafting more suitable words.

You know you can’t hold on to what you have and also receive revision’s benefits, but the sacrifice is often too heartbreaking; we do what we need to do to stay afloat—even if that perpetuates mistakes.

A perpetual mistake can often feel better than the step that begins to correct it.

Where we were once confident writers, we are now cowardly editors.

You see that you need to make changes, but you’re not ready to explore the consequences of the alterations.

You don’t know what the new document will look like.

One change could completely mess it up and make it unrecognizable, leaving you vulnerable and more confused than before you made the change.

Editing’s risks support a refusal to acknowledge that changes need to be made.

In time, however, writers look back and do not like their choices.

Minimal editing may keep writers feeling safe, but short-term satisfaction also stunts their growth.

Brave writers and editors know effective solutions take time and adjustments prevent stasis and regret.

They must keep writing but embrace fine-tuning as a way to maintain what works and swiftly discard what doesn’t.

Art emerges when you find the balance.

The Never-Ending Rough Draft

We don’t write in an impenetrable bubble; circumstances influence how we operate each and every time we transcribe and delete.

Variables affect our work.

You may make a constructive change on Monday and then find a similar change painstakingly difficult on Wednesday after the events that occurred on Tuesday.

When we revisit a piece of writing, we are never the same person.

You only embark on your writing journey when you want to discover the unknown more than you want to stay comfortable.

You learn that no stop is the be-all and end-all.

The only way to be a great writer is to focus on the words directly in front of you and make them the best you can.

Appreciate the material you have to work with and utilize your revision power.

“Good” writing and “bad” writing are arbitrary labels.

All writing can improve.

We must make necessary changes while we have the ability and time to do so—while we are alive, while we can write.

This is the prologue to How to Overcome Heartbreak Without Projectile Vomiting: A Guide for Cynical Hopeless Romantics.

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About Stefanie Flaxman

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