Sometimes the mind plays tricks on us. Sometimes it deceives. And then there are the times when it paralyzes.
I love writing. I love how it blends logic and emotion into the vessels of character, plot, and setting. I love the artful simplicity of it, and the infinite complexity. But after the first draft is done and I’m looking at the beautiful disaster on the computer screen in front of me, the fear sets in. I’m going to have to fix this.
Oh, how many times have I wished for a revision fairy to wave her tiny wand and instantly transform my manuscript into a completed product? Too many to count.
It’s not (only) that I’m lazy. The first draft is easy. You just type down everything that pops into your head, like throwing bushels of cooked spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. Revising is the voice in the back of your head that keeps you up at night, whispering how the third act is still too weak to support the story and your main character’s eyes should be green instead of brown. And then when you sit down to start the task of bringing order to this chaotic manuscript, the first sensation is . . . paralysis.
It’s just too much. It’s too hard. The competition on the bookstore shelves is too good, and this little manuscript isn’t Big Enough or Smart Enough to get noticed. These fears are compounded by the other Voice in your head which convinces you that THIS is the book which will reveal to everyone that you’re a fraud, a hack, a joke pretending to be a writer.
Yet, I bring some good news, too. The fear is temporary. Once I place my fingers on the keyboard and get started, the tension eases. Oh, it’s not always a pretty sight. Some evenings I spend hours just banging away at nothing, barely treading water, and the fear slinks back into my brain like the whore of Babylon. But one thing you learn after doing this for a couple decades is that nothing lasts forever. The paralysis will lift as long as you keep pressing forward.
Revision isn’t just necessary for a good book. It’s good for the soul, too.