This summer, I resolved to finish editing the draft of my first novel. Unfortunately, since this was my first novel, I’d never done any novel-editing before. What is this editing business anyway, I thought, and how do I do it? It seemed to me that nobody really knew what editing was, so I struck out on my own to find out.
I had 60,000+ words to go through and three months to do it in—quite an intimidating task for a beginning novelist! So, I started an experiment. I resolved to spend one hour each day “editing” this novel, and even allowed myself to consider “staring at the words on my computer screen” novel editing. This approach was similar to NaNoWriMo style, except the pressure was off—I didn’t actually have to do anything, and I knew this editing task would only take an hour per day. Great! I was worry-free about writing—for a while at least.
Then something new began to bother me. Which hour of my day would this writing hour be? Early, or late? Starting at half-past an hour, or right on the hour? (Writers obsess about these things.) This was no fun—instead of focusing on the writing itself, I was burning energy just trying to decide what time I should write!
My summer job saved the day by forcing me into a rigid writing schedule. Every day at 4PM, I begin work on my novel. Since I’ve formed this habit of writing at a regular, specified time, my days are mostly worry-free. I know when I’ll write, and I know that I will write—a habit that’s hard to break.
In his book The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear, Ralph Keyes wrote,
Fear is felt by writers at every level. Anxiety accompanies the first word they put on paper and the last.
I must disagree with this quote—if you’re having this much trouble writing, you’re not doing it right! Keyes also wrote,
Willa Cather said that she write best when she stopped trying to write and began simply to remember.
This is how you write without fear. Set a time, form a habit, and begin remembering. Remembering is easy, and when you make your writing habit into a routine, the words will disappear and only memories will show on the page.