Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Why a 12-Hour Editing Bender is a Bad Idea

Ok, so I know linking "12-hour editing bender" and "bad idea" is a bit obvious. But this actually happened to me. Last Saturday I worked on 20 pages of editing from about 10am-10pm. I took a small lunch break, but no dinner break. Keep in mind, I'm not working on an official deadline. Just one of my own making. Definitely looney bin territory.

Here's what I learned (and what I'm still grappling with):

1. It is possible to overthink until there's nothing left.

Afterward, when I got my sanity back, I checked the older version in my Kindle and found the paragraphs I'd sliced weren't all that bad. I may have to flesh things back up again. Lesson: Breaks are necessary. When you start editing yourself into corners, stop!

2. I should just set a timer.

Ha! Timer, you say. I ignored said timer, determined (very irrationally) to finish. I need to find a more compelling reason to stop when I need to. Lesson: I can't do everything all at once, and sometimes make things worse when trying. Space allows for necessary problem-solving.

3. But what if I forget to make space in the thick of it all?

If my mind won't tell me, my body will. My stomach growled at me for the last hour, and my eyes were so tired they were about to fall out. Lesson: Even if you're in the middle of a sentence, it's necessary to stop when your body is breaking. See #1.

4.  My body and mind are linked. In the worst possible way.

Not only was my body in serious need of food, I was near the point of tears. My hyperfocused state wound me up like an overused guitar string. Lesson: Being emotionally frayed will not help your story. Or sentences. Or anything.

5. Rinse before repeating.

One of the main reasons I'm writing this post is I'm due for another editing bender this evening. Here's hoping I can remember all this before my mind gets into the zone of ignoring everything except the words on the page. Lesson: Remind yourself of what's important before you actually sit down to write.

So--is this an affliction shared by recovering perfectionists only? (I crossed out "recovering." This post is proof I've offically fallen off the wagon.) Or, do you have a set editing process? Feel free to leave comments below.


Anonymous said...

Give yourself a break. In every sense of the word.

Eliza Green said...

When my brain feels as if it's working against me, I stop editing. If I carry on, I'm rushing through it to finish it, which is counterproductive.

The Writer Librarian said...

Excellent advice--from both of you. And I was reminded that it's also necessary to keep having fun.