I’ve given myself three challenges since I started this blog, two of which I succeeded at, and one of which I failed. Today I realized another difference between them: while the first two were editing challenges, the latest one was a writing challenge. It was also the one I enjoyed the least,
To me there’s a major difference between writing and editing. Writing is the fun part, where the artist in me gets to play around and do all the fun creative stuff I so enjoy. The first draft is always the worst, but in many ways it’s the most fun because I’m still figuring out the story myself.
Editing is work. It’s not bad work, I don’t grumble too much when I’m doing it, but it’s still work. Editing is what separates a mediocre writer – or perhaps a good writer who never finishes – from those who can go further, because it’s in editing where a story is fixed, tweaked, refined, and polished into something fit for human consumption. It’s still work though, and not nearly so fun as playing around.
The difference between writing and editing speaks to why my previous challenges worked so well, while this one felt so onerous. When I was faced with work (editing), I was grateful for the extra incentive because it kept me from slacking off. But when I was faced with fun (writing), I resented the deadline. It squashed my creativity, stopped me from considering other possibilities, and turned what was usually fun into work.
I think this is one of the reasons I’ve never taken part in NaNoWriMo. Understand that I don’t have anything against it, it’s just not for me. I don’t have a problem writing or plotting out a story, and I will finish what I start; it’s writing a good story that concerns me, something breakneck speed is not conducive towards. When the pressure is on you can’t sit back and ruminate, you can’t turn back and rewrite, and you can’t junk entire tracts of story when you realize they’re not working. No, you have to keep running, lest the deadline’s whips find you.
Also, that’s not even taking into account the fact that difficult quotas are ineffective and demotivational for most people. But that’s another post.
I think when it comes to fiction some urgency is needed, otherwise the work will never get finished and you’ll never be able to read it. Creativity actually can be rushed, and sometimes it needs to be. It needs to be rushed later in the process though. Early on and it threatens to destroy the reason I enjoy writing at all.
P.S. As for this latest short story, even though it was rushed I think it turned out well. I won’t really know until I go back and edit it though. After all, that’s where the real work begins.