The Grim Reaper Lurks

All writers are familiar with the gray curtain in their mind. That’s what blocks the wonderful flow we feel when the words are pouring out onto the paper. A far more destructive force is your negative angel. Unless you are preternaturally sunny, you have a voice in your head that, when you are editing a block of material you’ve written, exclaims, “Why did you write this? This sucks!” You cast down the paper in disgust and storm out of the room, filled with annoyance that you’ve wasted so much time on such an insignificant piece of crap.

Just as insidious is the evil genie that slips its claws over your hand when you’re editing what you’ve done. Line upon line of pretty decent work—writing that needs to be polished, not eradicated—is crossed out or worse, zapped from the screen, never to return. You’ll never remember the purity of that original flourish. Why, you ask yourself, did I do something like that? You were in a bad mood, that’s all. We all have our ups and downs, and you were down. 

You have to have enough confidence in yourself to withstand the inevitable cycles that plague us all. When the moon’s tide reaches its low ebb, your inner devil comes out. Are you going to allow it to wreck all that effort?  How do you stop it? Here is my answer: Walk away. Get up from your desk and leave the room. There’s always tomorrow. In the morning you’ll feel a resurgence of your usual creativity—and you’ll write material that makes you say, “Hey, that’s not bad. I like it, I like it a whole lot.”

Exercise: When you are editing yourself, or perusing a batch that you’ve edited, keep track of how much you’re changing. Pick out one edited sentence and examine it carefully. Is what you’ve rewritten really better than what you wrote the first time? If it’s not, then you punt. You’re out of there. If you want to be a negative grinch, start writing out evil thoughts for one of your characters.

“Beware of no man more than yourself; we carry our worst enemies within us.”    —G. K. Chesterton

Copyright @ 2023, John Paine

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