My current project is an adventure story in the high-fantasy mode. I think it has some very interesting ideas and weaves the theme of its title (“Blood Bond”) through several unique layers. I’m working on it in order to submit it in June to a publication with very narrow submission windows.
My problem is, I keep picking at it. I’ve only got about half of the narrative on paper because I keep back-tracking and editing the first half. I’ll add a reference here, subtract extraneous text there, essentially pruning it as I go. I’m not getting anywhere because I haven’t been going…just going back.
All of the various writer’s guides that I have read reiterate the need to “get it down on paper.” Anne Lamott, in Bird by Bird, refers to it as the “shitty first draft”. You have to get all the crud out on paper in order to clean it up. Nothing ever comes out in pristine, perfect, ready-for-publication, prose. Lamott also refers to the need to quiet the various voices in the brain that critique and criticize as you go. I’m struggling with these voices right now.
My Gallant-brain, the intelligent and pragmatic chap that has always taken charge when doing “what-I-should-be-doing”, knows that I should be getting my story on paper instead of polishing it solely on the pedestal in my mind. However, my Goofus-brain, the one that says things like “You could be writing right now, but why don’t you watch some Sonny Chiba movies instead?”, too often takes charge. After I shut him up and finally sit down at my computer to “crank this sucker out”, I hear from my Gadfly-brain. He’s the naggy editor that convinces me that I can’t go on until I fix this thing. “How can it stand on its own if the foundation is cracked?” I get über-obsessed with making it look good now when I should just be getting a darn story written and then make right. I even pick at it as I write; rewriting, going back, writing a little more, then revisiting the first half.
So what is the point of all this? Well, they say the first step is to admit you have a problem. And, I know this; the voices tell me so. I keep telling myself that surely there must be a way to trick myself into compliance…but I strongly suspect I’ll just have to quit self-editing cold turkey. Perhaps by putting this down on (virtual) paper, it can become real for me. By putting my struggle into semi-comprehensible words, perhaps I can create my own cure. Or, at the very least, commiserate with my fellow writers-in-arms.
As usual, I welcome any insights from your experience.