On (Not) Editing

Featured Image: As you can see, I’m trashing nearly the entire opener of my new story “The Book Club”

I wrote 5000 words of a story on my writing retreat, all in red text. Somebody had told me that writing in red text helps you remember that this is a draft and it doesn’t have to be perfect. And it helped; I just wrote without thinking and wrote knowing that I’d be cutting half of it. 

This past weekend I finally decided to go back and do that cutting. But where was the document? I hadn’t seen it in a while, so I was going to have to search pretty hard. Very hard, it turned out. Eventually, I found the file but upon opening immediately saw that I was missing 5000 red words. Gone. Missing. Poof. 

I tried not to freak out. Microsoft Word usually recovers unsaved files, like a good friend would grab your wallet off the bar when you’re too drunk to remember to pick it up. 

But Microsoft Word did not have my wallet.

I searched through every inch of my laptop and finally found an .asd file with the date of the last day of my trip. I exhaled the breath I didn’t know I was holding.

This search took about a half-hour of stress-induced tachycardia, and by the time I had the document in front of me, I was emotionally exhausted, and it was time for dinner. I did not edit that day.

Monday night, I had nothing to do, and so I convinced myself it was time to edit. I opened the file, found the point where the red text started, as I had not even once read it since its creation, and began editing.

I edited maybe one page and then went to bed at 7:30 pm.

Does this make me a bad writer? Good writers are merciless editors, and I am, too, in my head. I planned to delete multiple scenes. I planned on completely changing the flow of the story. And yet, I changed a few sentences, got exhausted, and laid down. 

I saw my writing, and I was disappointed, which is unfair to both me and the story. It’s a draft. It’s a draft that had yet been read through even once. Seeing how much work the piece needed was overwhelming. But I can’t do the story justice without putting in the work necessary.

I edit all my blog posts to death, thanks to both Grammarly and my perfectionism. I would hate to post something that incorrectly uses a semicolon; how embarrassing! I even edit my Facebook posts for spelling and grammar to save myself the embarrassment of being a so-called writer who can’t even spell. One mistake in even an email can make you look like an imbecile who can never be trusted ever again. 

My tendency to avoid things that I know will cause me deep, immeasurable pain or even vague discomfort is not one of my best qualities. Procrastination is the enemy of progress. My shitty writing won’t just better itself if I leave it alone for a few months. In fact, like the ugly fruit you don’t want to eat, the longer you avoid it, the more rancid it seems to get. 

I try not to procrastinate; I try not to avoid things just because they’re unpleasant. Avoiding things you don’t want to do doesn’t make them exist any less and doesn’t help you grow as a person. You can try to avoid calling the doctor, but sometimes you have to buck up and call them so that the problem you’re having doesn’t get even worse. 

So whatever you’re procrastinating right now, just go do it, and I promise I’ll start editing my writing. 

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