I try to love my own imperfect production the same way that I love all the imperfect things around me, and it’s so hard, because I have such a nattering mean voice in my head that points out every flaw in everything I do.
I got dear Captain Cookie out of the shelter 3 years ago today. He had one eye and three legs and he was the best dog ever.
Someday perhaps I shall love all my imperfects the way I love everybody else’s.
When I was coming up, I had two schools of thought with writing: outlining and free writing. Outlining is very difficult, and nobody really helps you with an outline. I found myself just filling in various levels, scrambling for a phrase or two, and not really relating the outline to the overall narrative structure of the writing.
So when the free writing school came along, I tried to embrace that. Freewriting, for those who do not know, is just writing down whatever is in your head as quickly as possible to get the ideas out an down. Then you go back later and carve the structure of the paper. This method, I thought, would be much, much better for me than rigid, un-fun old outlining.
Only it wasn’t. I just made a damn mess. Turns out, I am not the sort of writer who naturally relates topics and gets into a flow. I am the sort of writer who winds up writing about specious examples. And digressions that never actually get to the point. And, worse, all this clutter makes it very hard to see what there. I have written 30 pages of free writing and walked away with absolutely nothing usable.
I know many, many people who use freewriting successfully, but it turns out I just wasn’t one of them. My struggles with freewriting became even more frustrating and I wound up blocked every time I tried it.
Turns out, I am one of those people free writing advocates tell you not to be: a person who edits as I go. I can not move forward in the writing unless the structure of what is there is *right* to me. If it is not, this little writer monkey refuses to go to work.
It means that my writing is slow going, and it’s two steps forward and one step back, and sometimes three steps back. In addition to working the structure, I am always working on sentence quality. Edit, edit, edit.
One of my dearest mentors, Andrew Sabl, taught me to use a sentence outline. It was wonderful. Now my writing begins with a concept map that I work into a storyboard. The storyboard has each paragraph’s topic sentence in it. I work from the storyboard when I draft. I often have to rework the storyboard as I go.
I decided to track the word count throughout the course of some writing days. Some of these are sad days where I cut more than I created. I post it here in the hopes that other writers who might share my inability to just let the words flow take some solace from it.