National Novel Writing Month is beginning today, but I’m not doing it this year. I’ve “won” it twice, writing two 50,000+ word draft novels. This year I can’t justify it; I have three manuscripts to revise.
But as a separate daily discipline, I’m going to be a cheerleader and a coach for everyone else. One short blog post a day. Comment with any questions, suggestions, or requests and I’ll try to get them all.
Fire your editor.
I used to teach English to 6th grade boys, very concrete people who think they know everything and who can figure out more ways to do things wrong than anyone I know. That is, they are just like adults, but more honest about it. And sometimes, a boy would come to me and say “I have writer’s block.” They have heard of writer’s block and they think it sounds important.
“No, you don’t. You just have an overactive editor,” I would say. “He’s sitting right there on your shoulder saying, ‘That’s terrible,’ isn’t he? He keeps saying, ‘You can’t write that,’ doesn’t he?”
And my student would nod, because I was right.
“Okay, here’s what you do. Take your finger and your thumb and make an ‘OK’ sign. Then fire your editor, like this,” and I would flick that editor off the boy’s shoulder with my forefinger and a satisfying “pock” noise with my lips. He would grin.
“Okay, now go back and write whatever you want.” And he would go back to his seat and produce a story or an essay that had all kinds of problems. But that was okay, because you can’t fix things that don’t exist yet. A flawed draft can be fixed. No draft at all is worthless. That imaginary perfect story you’re considering? The heck with it. Write the imperfect one. Start now. Fire your editor. Escort that nagging voice right out of the building.
Now go back and write whatever you want.
You can hire your editor back once you have a draft.
Next time: Fire your nice imaginary grandmother too.