If you have ever looked over something you’ve just finished writing and thought, “This is horrible, I want a do-over,” then congratulations! You are just as critical of your own writing as every other writer out there.
Welcome to hell. Or as some prefer to call it, editing something you just wrote.
This urge to want to scrap everything and start again is possible to resist, but it’s hard. Because deep down you want to have written something REALLY good. And when it doesn’t seem to have turned out exactly the way you thought it would, giving up starts to seem like a completely reasonable option.
Don’t give in! Here’s how to resist this temptation and give yourself a little confidence boost.
Start each writing session with your favorite scene or section
When we’re working on a story, sometimes we end up writing out of order when we’re inspired to write a specific scene or section at a particular time. It’s out of these kinds of sessions that some of our best writing often surfaces. These pieces of writing, therefore, might end up becoming our favorites.
It’s both healthy and motivating to return to these scenes when we start to doubt ourselves. Before you start writing, and once you’re finished for the day, go back and read through your favorite scenes again. Remind yourself that, while not every part of your story is the best you could have done, some of it is good – at least in your own eyes. That matters. It builds confidence and provides reassurance.
Jot down specific things you want to improve and take them on one at a time
When you’re almost finished writing or you’ve already started the editing process, the critic inside you immediately bursts through whatever cage you’ve somehow managed to keep him in so you could write without losing your mind.
He is mean. He is over-critical and he will make you want to quit. Don’t let him.
As you start to find things big or small about your work that you want to fix or change, mark them or write them down. Go through the entire thing without actually changing anything major. Once you’re finished and you have your list, start tackling each thing one at a time. It’s less overwhelming and it helps keep you focused on details you want to make better.
Remember that no first draft is a good draft
You aren’t going to write the perfect draft the first time around. It just isn’t possible. It has nothing to do with your skill level or how much experience you do or don’t have. First drafts are supposed to be imperfect. Part of the writing process is learning from your mistakes – and then correcting them.
Training yourself to write imperfectly is challenging and is a mindset that takes time to get used to. You just have to learn to keep moving forward even when you know something isn’t exactly the way you want it to be yet. It’s a process. There are steps and layers. But it does get easier.
Give your work a chance. It’s not nearly as awful as your inner critic thinks it is.
Image courtesy of Ervins Strauhmanis/flickr.com.