Are you a perfectionist? Does is seem like every time you take two steps forward with your writing you simultaneously take ten steps back? Many writers already struggle with prioritizing and finding time to dedicate to the writing process. Then, when they finally overcome that hurdle and actually find time to write, the process is hindered by limitations that the writer places upon him or herself.
Rather than allowing the inspiration to flow freely… they spend every moment picking apart each and every sentence, critiquing their word choice, second guessing their ideas, and overly revising their first draft before it is even complete.
Here’s the thing though… your first draft has no other job but to exist. It does not have to be perfect. It only has to be written and completed. It is only a start! Though editing does have it’s rightful place in the writing process, it is not meant for the beginning stages.
I love the quote that says, “Write without fear, edit without mercy.”
It is the fear of failure and judgement of others that causes us to lack confidence in our writing. As believers, we should be confident in knowing that God is writing our words and He will be with us throughout the whole process. The Holy Sprit will show us what to write and what to omit; what to change and what to fix. We have to believe that the Holy Spirit is working through us while we are writing that first draft. This is an act of release. You must relinquish control and let it all out! Allow your draft to be messy, erroneous, and raw. There is beauty in that. It allows room for growth, learning, and development.
Here are some tips for those of you struggling with completing the assignment that God has given you.
1. Write like you talk
Some people are talkers and can hold a conversation for hours. Yet, when it’s time to write, they seem to get stuck. This is because they are pressuring themselves to communicate in a more eloquent way through writing than they naturally do through talking. My advice is to write like you talk everyday! Just get it out. You can edit the style, tone, and language later! You can even use voice recording software that will write for you as you speak!
2. Mark the parts you would like to return to
If you’re stuck on a certain section, just skip it! For example, I like to highlight sentences that I feel are incomplete and I return to them at a later date so that I can continue writing another section in that moment. Or, I underline words that I feel can be stronger. Then, one day I go back to all of my underlined words and open up a thesaurus to see if there are other words that I can use to replace them.
3. Stop re-reading
During your process of drafting up you work, just write everything out! Do not re-read! No matter how tempted you are. If you keep re-reading you will get stuck editing and critiquing your work. If I write something, 95% of the time, I won’t look at it EVER AGAIN until I have completed everything and it’s time to move on to the editing process. I don’t go back and forth and re-read everything. I just focus on writing. The only time I re-read is when I sit down to write again. I have to read the last paragraph I was working on prior so that my new one can flow seamlessly and be a continuation or extension of my thought.
4. Understand, acknowledge, and respect the editing process
Many people stress so much in trying to perfect their work during the drafting process because they just aren’t aware of their options after completing their draft. Generally in publishing, there are different types of editing stages. There is the developmental edit, line edit, and proofread. The developmental edit helps bring out your ideas and clarify your message and focus. The line edit checks for the aesthetics of your work such as spelling, grammar, sentence structure, word choice, etc. The proofread catches any last changes that need to be made before your work goes into production. When you plan for this and when you understand these stages, you allow yourself to do your job as a writer, which is to WRITE. Leave the job of editing to the experts!
5. Don’t rush. Leave a fair amount of time for both writing and editing.
The reason you may be trying to write and edit at the same time is because you are trying to reach a deadline. By doing that, you are actually sabotaging your time and your work. Be patient with yourself. When it is time to write… dedicate all that time to writing and let that be your focus. Don’t rush it but get everything that you want to say on the paper. When it’s time to edit… don’t rush your editors. Go through as many drafts as you need. This is when your perfectionism will come in handy! This is the time to keep editing until everything is PERFECT.