Editing: the pit of despair

You may remember that I wrote a post a while back about how writing is hard. It was when I was just starting to write Sovereign, and was fairly self-pitying and indulgent, despite the fact it was true.

Now, in the midst of finally putting in the work (another topic I recently blogged about) to get Machine‘s sagging middle whipped into shape, I’m writing a new post about the difficulties of writing, this time about, you guessed it, editing.

So why, as an author trying to build a career, am I writing a post about how difficult my work is? Why would I be so brutally honest about how much my passion can suck?

Well, partly because it’s honest, and because like my last mopey post on writing, I want to capture honestly what the process is like, but also, and perhaps more importantly, because every writer eventually bumps up against this reality, and if you’re a new writer, or even a seasoned one in a slump, you need to know. Editing hurts, editing will hurt, always has hurt, and you aren’t alone.

Me, when I start thinking too hard about my books. Also, dear Whovians, you’re welcome for not using David Tennant crying in the rain.

And that’s not to say it’s always bad. Editing can be one of the most rewarding things that a writer can do. It’s a different kind of joy, certainly, the joy of hard won victories and the satisfaction of a job well and thoroughly done, but it can also feel horrible, to stare your work in the face and find that something you’d hoped was good or even improving is in fact stilted and awkward if not flat out bad. To find something you’d thought you’d fixed didn’t work, or to rewrite and chop and slice only to find something still isn’t working. It can eat you up inside.

But, as I said, if this is where you’re at, if you feel discouraged, like you’re wasting your time, like you’ll never reach your star, you aren’t alone. Literally every writer who has ever lived has felt this way at some point. I’m fairly confident in my writing abilities most of the time, and I feel this way often. It’s okay.

Writers are delicate creatures by nature. A lot of us suffer from thin skins, low self-confidence and, perhaps worst of all, an incessant need to compare. We look at the Nixes and Collinses and Gaimans of the world and think we could never be that good. We could never write so well, and then, just when we finally think we’re happy with our work, when we finally open our tender little hearts enough to share it, someone points out a typo on page 3 and we want to throw our laptops into the gutter. Now, I have some harsher thoughts about that attitude in general (which I also blogged about as it happens), mainly, if you’re going to cut it in this business, get over it, but perhaps a kinder way to word it for the currently despairing author would be to remember that writing is often the art of perseverance in the face of rejection, and even the Rowlings of the world have a drawer full of nos.

And, more importantly, that’s not where your value comes from. Every writer, every person is inherently valuable, no matter what. God made you and loves you and nothing can take that away. Writing is not your identity, and no matter what happens, you are important.

So, all that to say, next time you feel like you’re gonna have to strap yourself down Westley style just to face your horrible novel/short story/play/etc. again, just remember, even “Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while,” and even if it feels like it’s going to kill you to do it, you do love your book.

I so wanted to use a picture of the Albino, but then that torture analogy, man. You can’t not use that.

So, Ever tried to write something and bumped up against this problem? Tell me about it. How did you escape your pit?