Sit me in front of a blank page or screen, no limitations and no deadline, and I’m rarely stuck.
No, I’ve got endless ideas, opening sentences, a narrative thread worked out, maybe even some mannerisms that reveal character and intent. My fingers grip the pencil or jitterbug across the keyboard, and they are confident and purpose-driven … for about two hours.
I get to a certain point, and then something in me flags. I slow down, stop, start doubting, and then I go back and revise.
Bad. Very bad habit.
Think about fresh fruits. Either just picked or just purchased at the market, they’re at their sweetest when perfectly ripe. If they’re still immature, you won’t be able to feel the bruises or probe the soft spots with your tongue.
But let them sit on the counter overnight, or better yet age a couple of days, and you’ll see the bad spots, the blemished sections.
At this point, the more fastidious among us might opt to throw the whole thing out, but I like to take a paring knife and cut away those bruised portions. I prefer the taste of fruit at this stage because it’s had a chance to mature.
Writing is a lot like that.
When I edit too early, I’m cutting into green fruit and trying to serve it too soon. I am always better off letting it sit for a while, and coming back to it when I’m fresh. I’ll be able to distinguish the flaws then, and cut them out.
You see, it’s all inside my head. Both the book I want to write and the obstacles I’ve placed in my path that prevent me from writing it.
I know, from talking to other writers and to my own students, that I’m not the only one with this problem. You’re here because you have it too.
We can agree it’s all in our heads. So, let’s also agree to work it out, but not alone. Together, we’re going to get it out of our heads and onto paper, digital document, whatever you feel comfortable with. Let’s do it. Write now.