I have a huge pile of books on writing. Some of them cover writing in general, others on writing science fiction, and others on very specific aspects of writing: character, scene design, etc. I used to tremendously enjoy reading these books, and they used to tremendously inspire me; I would read a few chapters and then go and write like crazy. To say the least, this has changed.
It might just be a lack of self-confidence on my part, but now I find that reading all this advice just puts a burden of perfection on me. “Show, don’t tell.” “Use round characters.” “Always escalate the conflict.” Yeah, yeah, I’m trying! My inner editor is loud enough without famous authors cheering him on. I’m just trying to write, not to be perfect.
At least, that’s what I tell myself. In truth, I want to be perfect; that’s why I have an inner editor. I think that most people feel this way, but then again most people don’t try to write stories. We’re often told that suppressing this inner editor is the key to finally being able to write, and there’s a truth to that of course, but on the other hand, pushing him down and just going for it isn’t the best solution either.
If your inner editor is too prominent, then he’ll shoot down everything that you try to write; you’ll never get anywhere. If he’s too quiet, then you’ll write and rewrite tons more than necessary to finish a story, because you didn’t listen to that nagging feeling that maybe you should think things through a little bit. That’s kind of where I am. I won NaNoWriMo three years in a row by just writing and writing, but every time I ended up with a story that needed considerable work.
So, my conversations with my inner editor are in a state of flux. I need to find that area where I’m able to listen when he tells me that something isn’t working out, but ignore his background “you’ll never be good enough” chatter. And of course, since I’m trying to get published, that background chatter is louder than normal and harder to distinguish from the good advice.
It all comes down to this, I suppose: “The only way to write good, salable words is to write a whole lot of bad, unmarketable ones first.” If I acknowledge this, maybe, I can get my publishing worries out of the way, my inner editor will quiet down a little bit, and I’ll be able to write happily and more effectively.