The best writers will tell you good writing happens during the editing process.
According to legend, Ernest Hemingway wrote the last page of A Farewell to Arms 39 times before it satisfied him!
I share this because many writers tend to be perfectionists. We share an idealist’s artistic temperament, or we wouldn’t bother with something so tedious as writing stories…
…and at times that joy of creating something meaningful and beautiful can paralyze our creative efforts.
We’re can be our own worst critics, can’t we? And if anyone else even HINTS that our worst fears might be right–that we might have failed to produce perfection–failed to convey the marvelous picture that’s so vivid in our minds–failed to glorify God with an expression of His gift that is ultimately worthy…
…whew! With standards like that, it’s easy to see why we might feel too pressured to produce much of anything.
So let’s introduce a little realism:
- You’re only human. No one, least of all God, expects perfection. “For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.” (Psalm 103:14) A more balanced goal might come from Colossians 3:23–“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.”
- The purpose of a first draft is to get the story down so you can see what you have to work with. You can produce a more polished first draft if you do some pre-writing activities first (outlining, plot development, character sketches, etc.), but it is still just a FIRST draft.
- You get unlimited chances to improve and polish your story, try new ideas, and grow in your craft. Computer word processing programs even make the editing process relatively easy. (Think of poor Louisa May Alcott, eating apples up in her candlelit attic while she wrote her stories by hand, shuffled pages, crossed lines out and rewrote…ack!)
Exercise: As you start a new year of writing, get something…ANYTHING…down on paper. Don’t over-think. Don’t analyze. If you can turn off your internal editor, don’t even re-read. Just write. This will give you something to work with. It’s SUPPOSED to be rough–like a little lump of clay that you can pound and pinch and shape. Whatever you write, for today, is fine, but write SOMETHING because NOTHING leaves you with nothing to work with.
- Pick a goal (for example 4 pages or 1000 words) and free write.