If you didn't know, I've written a lot of books. Like, 14 or something ridiculous number like that. What can I say? I needed the practice—I still need the practice. I was really just that bad. You name a writing faux pas, and I can guarantee you I once used it far too liberally.
But there's one good thing about having written such an obscene amount: You learn your process. You start to see the patterns in the way you create, both good and bad. Which in turn helps you improve/streamline that process.
One thing I've noticed about myself lately is something I'm calling the Two Hat Effect.
Hat One: Writing (as in rough drafting)
My rough drafting process is so creatively charged that my analytical side takes a back seat. I let myself experiment, break rules, and discover my character's story. No plotting. No real plan save a vague idea of what could happen.
Hat Two: Editing
Despite my extremely organic rough drafting process, I'm kind of a ruthless editor. I'm extremely critical of my own work—so critical that I can tear myself to pieces if I'm not careful.
Living With The Hats
I think every writer wears these hats to some effect. If you're more of a planner in first draft, your process may not be as juxtaposed as mine, but I imagine you still take on a more critical eye for editing.
It seems like such a strange process, this writing thing. We are both the creator and the critic of our own work. We spend months and months just trying to put the dang story together. And for what? So we can tear it apart and start all over. Several times.
The emotional roller coaster never ceases to knock me off my feet. You'd think after so many projects that I would be used to it by now, but it feels brand new every time.
And that's the thing about writing. You can learn and learn—but those lessons may not apply to the next project. In a way, you have to RElearn the craft for every book. You have to go back and forth between those hats over and over, which is easier said than done.
Maybe some of you have experienced that mental paralysis I get when I finish a project and start thinking edits. My whole body tenses. My stomach knots. I have to, what? EDIT? But it's my baby! It'll be so much work. I can't wrap my brain around that! Can't the story just be perfect? Please?
I've been in creative writing mode for so long that editing seems like a monster, one I'd rather not face.
Conversely, perhaps some of you have experienced that mental paralysis I get when I finalize edits and think about starting a NEW project. My whole body tenses. My stomach knots. I have to, what? WRITE? But I can't have another baby! It'll be so much work. I can't wrap my brain around that! It won't be perfect! Can't I just edit forever? please?
I've been in editing mode for so long that first drafting seems like a monster, one I'd rather not face.
Huh, weird how that works.
Having gone back and forth between these hats several times, I've learned something about myself. It's not writing or editing that I hate—it's that time it takes to adjust to the freaking hat. At first, it feels...wrong. So I take off the hat and try to put it on my head differently, and it still feels weird. Then I panic because it doesn't fit! What if it never fits? Sure, people say it'll stretch out, but they're probably lying so I don't regret my purchase.
At some point, I stop panicking and just wear the stupid hat. It feels too tight—and surely looks stupid—but I just keep wearing it until it doesn't seem so strange.
Insert continuation of metaphor here.
Once I get comfortable with either writing or editing, I enjoy it. I honestly do. But it's that switch between the two that has me constantly questioning myself. That's the period of time when I worry I suck as a writer, when I think about giving up, when I curl up in a ball and eat way too many brownies.
But I'm finally realizing that the fastest way to get over that period of doubt and panic is to stop fiddling with the stupid hat. Just wear it until it doesn't feel so stupid anymore.