After a day of rewriting, my head is exploding and my heart is confused. I’ve lost any semblance of objectivity about what I’ve just done. I could slog on, but I’m going to stop and give myself a break, then come back to the page again and see if I can bring something fresh to the party.
I don’t know about you, but I find that this business of stepping outside your own work and viewing it with ruthless clarity is tough to do. Frankly, I don’t think I’m very good at it, which may prove to be a real handicap. It’s one thing to have other people around you, whether friends or writing professionals give you critiques and it’s quite another to be able to critique your own words and find the courage and wisdom to pull them apart and put them together again.
I’m sure that’s why in his book, On Writing, Stephen King recommends that you put a draft aside for six weeks. Just put it in a drawer and resist looking at it for more than a month. But even he isn’t totally objective, it seems because he relies on his wife, who’s also a writer, to tell him when something really isn’t working. So, I guess he’s got a blind editorial eye just like me.
Why is it so easy to put on an editor’s hat when you’re looking at someone else’s work and so hard to do it for your own? I think there’s more than just the investment of time and ego. I think it’s simply this: At some point, we thought what we put down on paper worked and even if we have the feeling that it’s broken, we don’t know how to fix it.
I guess the real trick isn’t to be ruthless with ourselves, but compassionate. To give ourselves full permission to have been misguided or misled by a choice we made. And then to gently face the page again and give it our full attention, without judgment but with openness so we can welcome in a new idea. Wonder if this will work? Write on!