January 16th, 2010

Six degrees of writing separation

When it comes to writing, I think we all have 'separation' issues.  Here are some of the more common ones, along with suggestions for how to deal with them:
#1 Separate your writing from your writing-related
Book signings, blogs, critique groups, going to conferences etc, are all important (and fun), but they come under the heading ‘Writing Related’. Make sure you schedule plenty of time for actual writing too. 
#2 Separate yourself from the outside world
Everyone has their own way of writing, but we all need a way to shut out the rest of the world so we can focus on the one we create in our heads and get it down on paper. Find a system which works best for you and stick to it. 
#3 Separate your story-teller from your internal editor
It’s hard to push on to the next page when you know things need fixing on the last one, but if you’re writing something new, let your story-teller finish the job first, then pass the whole thing over to your internal editor. It’ll save time in the long run.  
#4 Separate your self-doubt from your self-loathing
Self-doubt, as in ‘Is this good enough? Can I make it better?’ is a good thing. It keeps you on your toes and inspires you to work harder to improve your craft. Self-loathing, as in “I’m a terrible writer. I’ll never get published” etc, is a waste of your time. 
#5 Separate your ego from your, er… elbow.
If you ask for an honest critique, be prepared to receive one. It’s okay to disagree with feedback (though if a lot of people point out the same problem, you should consider the possibility that your work can be improved), but it’s not okay to be ungrateful or pig-headed.   And make time to help and encourage other writers. Chances are, someone did the same for you.  
#6 Separate your excuses from your “To do” list
Do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, whether you like it or not.
To some extent, I have trouble with all of the above, but by far the most difficult for me is #3. The best I’ve been able to manage is an uneasy truce between my story-teller and my internal editor. At the start of each writing session, the internal editor gets to read over the previous day’s work and make any changes it wants, but after that it has to hand control over to the story-teller for the rest of the session. 
How about you?
What are your ‘separation’ issues?