Not writing is not acceptable. Not writing is creative death. Simple enough mantras I suppose. Why they cannot be adhered to is the overriding problem.
Nanowrimo has been over for two days, and this is the second day that I have been writing since I validated my novel. That in itself is a modest miracle. In past years--this is my fifth time--I've made a series of promises to resume writing as soon as I caught up with everything that had been suspended during November to accommodate Nanowrimo. But I never have. There is never a lack of distractions or excuses.
During the past month, I have dipped into Chris Baty's book from time to time, not to read it systematically from beginning to end, although I really should do precisely that, but to rest my eyes by focusing on a different target. He has a number of things to say about a writer's Inner Editor. Here are a few:
"The doubting, self-critical voice that we all inherited around puberty as an unfortunate door prize for surviving childhood. The Inner Editor is a busybody and perfectionist, happiest when it's tsk-tsking our shortcomings and weaving our past blunders into a rich tapestry of personal failure. . . . We invite this fun spoiling tyrant along with us on all our artistic endeavors."
For me, Inner editors and Muses are peculiar notions. I know this is heresy, but it would be dishonest to say anything different. The more I read about them, the less clear these descriptions of mystical people become. In my own case, I am reasonably certain that I do not have a muse. Of course, I occasionally feel inspired while writing, but I am not aware of any need to ascribe those feelings to a nonexistent, anthropomorphic figure. Let me be more explicit. Writing is a job, though to be sure a job with particular advantages. One must report for work in a specified place at a designated time. Returning to my own example, I have reserved a block of time during which I must sit at my desk and attempt to write something, To be as productive as possible, I try to have something specific in mind to write about before I sit down; but that is not always the case. I ofltentimes sit in front of my computer without the haziest idea of what to say. My mind is not blank during these moments; it tends to wander through a thick catalogue of topics, none of which are remotely related to English composition.
Eventually, a thought knocks on the door, and I invite it in. I write a sentence or two to describe the visit., then remove my fingers from the keyboard and look over what I have just accomplished. As so often happens, the results are awkward or inaccurate or even ugly. So I try to patch things up before moving on to the next group of sentences. Is my Inner Editor dictating these changes? According to the conventional Nanowrimo wisdom, I should refrain from editing my work and immediately move on. Why should I do that? If something is broken why not fix it on the spot? What do I gain by leaving flotsam in my wake. Which is better: a manuscript of 30,000 perfectly written words or one of 300,000 words that must be completely rewritten? For myself, the joy of writing includes molding words and sentences into coherent text that, as much as possible, accurately reflects the thought I want to convey in an entertaining way. By striving to achieve quality work am I sacrificing creativity in favor of misguided perfection? Is it better to produce quantity and ignore its quality, at least for the time being?
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