Firstly, I’ve been on the precipice of another ‘I hate my book’ stage but managed to stop it in its tracks, with help.
I recently attended a seminar with the lovely Jodi Cleghorn, who spoke about critiquing and self-editing. She’d written something about the ‘I hate my book’ stage that resonated deeply with me because I was right there about to plunge head first into it. A light-bulb went off in my head and immediately I stopped hating my book. I can only hope that this wisdom can save others. It appears understanding the reason for it can effectively combat the emotion.
LOGIC is greater than EMOTION.
I can hear you all asking: ‘What did she say? I don’t want to think my book sucks any more!’ I’d tweeted a portion of this quote and I love it so much I want to make a meme featuring it, but here’s the full quote:
“Editing is about focussing on all the errors within a manuscript. In doing so, it is easy to feel consumed: that the whole thing is an entire waste of time–you suck, your writing sucks and the story sucks.”
Here is where the truth lies. The psychology of understanding what we are really doing in editing. For everyone that understands basic psychology, you’ll likely know where this is going.
We are looking for mistakes! If we look for mistakes we will find them. If we seek out the negatives, it will reflect back on us. Everybody knows (or should know) the simple truth that negativity begets negativity. When we are looking for the flaws in our work, we are looking at the flaws in ourselves, in our abilities as writers. Of course that’s going to expunge our deepest, darkest fears to the surface where we’ll have to face down those ugly thoughts and squash them back in again.
So while I line edit, every sentence that doesn’t need changing or does its job, I’m going to tell myself: “Look at that! It’s flawless! It’s wonderful! I did a good job there!”
I’d never simplified this process before to its base psychology. I’d just called it ‘editing’ or sometimes ‘polishing’. To be upbeat, I would tell myself I’m making my manuscript ‘better’. But now that I know the process is really about ‘seeking out the negatives’, I can combat that with reason, logic and seek out the positives as well.
Thank you Jodi Cleghorn, I’m nominating you for Sainthood. Patron Saint of Editing.