Writing My Way Out of a Paper Bag

It’s amazing how reading and editing other people’s work really drains the editor/reviewer of the ability/desire to write anything of her own. So I’ve been away for awhile, but I have been writing. The work comes easier as the days after the semester’s end go by, so I should be stretched and ready for CampNano in July. I have been watching some horror to get my brain working in the right direction. This includes forensic shows on Netflix like Extreme Forensics. Today I wrote about 1,839 words, which is great after writing so little for so long. I’ve also outlined a longer short story/novella, and that should be good practice before plunging into bigger work.

This does bring up some issues I’ve been mulling over regarding the balance between the two minds all writers have: the editor and the creator. On the one hand, the creator wants to create new work. This is the part that runs wild, reveling in characters and their imaginary situations, dreamy locals and the big what ifs. The editor, though, is a constant critic: grammar’s wrong, spelling’s wrong, this isn’t moving the plot forward, etc. Most writing books I’ve read have advised just writing, and indeed NaNoWriMo is entirely based on this premise: writers should produce and not look back, silencing the editor until the very end. however, can this really work for those of us whose job is to edit and advise writers for a living? At the end of a long day of reading and dealing with other people’s issues, is it possible to consistently sit down and create work without hearing the nagging voice of the editor? During a given semester I typically have around 96 students, each with their own unique approaches to writing. I hear the editor’s voice constantly.

Stephen King used to teach English, and although he churned out some of his strongest work during that time, he also quit as soon as he was able. Cherie Priest did the same thing, and in fact she and I share a degree in Composition and Rhetoric. They’re all just reflections at the end of the semester when I’ve had some time to breathe and get my head back in order.

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