Tomorrow is for editing. Today is for writing.
The blank page is a foreboding and terrifying thing. Part of its terror is that we often count our writing in terms of words and pages and often we are forced to stare at vast empty white as the time we have to spend on it slowly fades away.
There’s also a strange sensation for writers, where we seek, on the first try, to write the most completely profound and intelligent sentences that are so beautiful, angels sweep down from on high, and escort us personally to Heaven, where God congratulates us on our prose. This has not and will not ever happen. Yet each time I sit down, I wonder if today is the day that I’ll find out the existence of the Creator.
This is destructive behavior. If you are writing, you are a writer. If you aren’t writing, you’re not. It’s as simple as that. Staring at an empty page either in fear or focus is not writing. Some call this writer’s block. I call it procrastination.
I’d like to introduce something called automatic writing. Many of you have likely heard of this already, but it is essentially spending a few minutes writing non-stop. You do not edit. You do not delete. You do not punctuate. You just keep going, even if you’re writing I don’t know a dozen times. If you’re typing, close your eyes or turn off the monitor. Now you’re writing!
There’s another reason to do this. Your mind is stronger than you realize, and it often works on problems during the day. If you’ve ever had a profound idea in the shower, this is part of it. You’re doing something that allows you to focus without thinking directly about it.
And finally, it’s far simpler to work with a piece that’s already there. Editing is a slow and diligent process, but it’s infinitely easier to edit something that already exists (even if it’s crap) than to try and write a perfect novel into being (especially if it’s crap). Remember, in order to be great at something, you first have to be bad at it.
Writing is a discipline. And if you find yourself staring at a page far too often, trying to figure out what comes next, then stop thinking and just write. Tomorrow is for editing, today is for writing.