Writer’s Block and Edititis
Some writers get the dreaded writer’s block. They can’t write a word. I’ve never had that horrible problem – but, for many years, I’ve had a similar condition. If I had to give it a name, I’d call it “edititis” because I have a debilitating desire to rewrite every sentence until I lose all enthusiasm for what I’m writing about.
I start writing something with a huge burst of excitement – convinced my new idea will make a good short story or novel – but eventually, often after a few days, I lose confidence in what I’m writing. I go back to edit it. Yuk! I hate every word. The beginning needs work. I start making changes. Ah – that’s better. Now the beginning is improved. Temporarily happy, I move on to improve the piece in other places. I add and delete paragraphs. I edit and edit and edit … and never finish the first draft.
After a week or month, I end up abandoning the manuscript in disgust.
I start a new project, hoping this time I will at least finish the first draft before I want to edit it. Sometimes I’ll get the compulsion after just writing a few sentences. Sometimes I’ll write 20,000 words. Sometimes I’ll write almost a 100,000.
Then the “edititis” strikes.
The manuscript enters a limbo state of rewrites.
It wouldn’t be a problem if it had happened just once or twice – but “edititis” has affected me for years.
Looking back, I have over thirty incomplete novels and over 800 incomplete stories on my computer.
That’s a lot of time and effort wasted on unfinished material.
I decided to do something about it by writing stories to self-enforced deadlines. A deadline gives me a motivation to keep on going when I want to edit something to death. It has helped me finish a number of manuscripts.
I’ve also found entering competitions is another way of focusing on finishing before editing. Last week I wrote a short story in a couple of hours that would have taken forever if I had not needed to finish it urgently for the contest’s deadline. I don’t care if the story wins the competition. Sending off the finished story felt fantastic.
I also found finishing enough stories to make an ebook collection is a great way of beating the self-doubt and procrastination.
Recently, I’ve managed to finish some of those first drafts abandoned long ago. Of course, I’m never completely satisfied with the final version of anything that I write – I always want to change things – but at least I feel better having written something to its conclusion. That feels like an accomplishment.
I still write countless incomplete manuscripts to every one that I finish – but finishing some is better than finishing none.
I used to think I’d never finish writing those thirty novels and 800 short stories – but I don’t feel so pessimistic any longer. If I set myself reasonable, achievable goals, I will finish them. Then I’ll edit them – but not too much.
Writing things like this blog help me keep on track. For example, I’m tempted to rewrite this as I’m writing it. But I’m forcing myself to go to the end first.
There. It’s done.
Now I’ll go back for a rewrite.