Punishing Absurdity

I’ve come to a conclusion that will shock you all.

I’m way too hard on myself.

So, that’s the sound of no one being even surprised.  Wow.  Deafening, I’m telling you.  Okay, so maybe that’s not news to anyone who’s seen me go through writing a draft.  For those who haven’t, there’s enough proof in the archives of this blog that I could easily get myself convicted of near-criminal self-abuse if I ever decided to press charges.  Don’t try to follow that logic, it’ll only hurt your head.

All right, so what’s different?  I caught myself at it, that’s what.  I still think it’s a miracle I noticed because, well, I’m like that.  I have trouble realizing that my expectations of myself are unreasonable until they reach the point of absurdity.  Ask myself to write a novel in 20 days? No problem.  How about two weeks? Um, maybe, if I take a vacation from the day job? A week? Er, I’ll get back to me on that one.  I’m serious.  It has to come down to where I’m asking myself to do in a few days what takes most people months before I realize how ridiculous I’m being.

Case in point today.  I keep saying that I’m not getting through the edits for  Where The Ether Flows as fast as I’d like, and I only keep saying that because I swear, my inner editor is standing behind me with the cat o’ nine tails, and not in a good way.  “Edit faster,” she screams, and so I try to.  Only she also screams when I’m not being thorough enough.  It reminds me of every time in a day job I’ve been told to get more work done with less time, except this time it’s me telling myself that.  I think that’s actually worse.

Where was I going with this story.  Oh yeah, editing Ether Flows.  I’m almost there, just starting into Chapter 20 of 24 today and my inner editor screams, “You should be done with this already. Fucking slacker!” Pardon the profanity, but trust me, if you saw the notes I leave on her behalf on my own manuscripts when I do mark up, you’d know that’s practically tame for her, almost kittenish. I swore to myself that I’d have it done by the end of the week, and she said it wasn’t good enough, that I should be done sooner.  I immediately realized that a)my inner editor is a slave-driving bitch and b)I’m being unreasonable.

I just checked and found out that I started editing on July 12th. It’s now the 30th, so I’ve done 19 chapters of revision, aka heavy content editing, on what has become my longest novel ever, added over 29,000 words, all in 17 days (barely started for today) and I’m still telling myself that it’s not good enough, that I should be done already.  Sick or what?  Oh, and in that time, I’ve been bashed over the head by a few story ideas that I dutifully banged out into a decent set of notes, gone out on at least one photo shoot, worked 40 hours a week at a day job and helped a friend through a shit-storm in her life.  Oh, and I’m helping another friend prep to do NaNo with me in November for the first time.

How the hell can all that not be good enough?  What more can I possibly cram into 17 days?  I need to give myself a break.  No, I’m not talking about taking a vacation, or any sort of time off from writing, because even I know that won’t happen. I need to write.  I saw a quote the other day on Twitter that said it all to me on that score:

“I write for the same reason I breathe — because if I didn’t, I would die.” Isaac Asimov

I really couldn’t stop if you held a gun to my head.  I’d still be making up a story out of that experience as it happened. No, what I really need is to give myself a break in the sense of saying something is good enough. That I don’t need to edit a whole first draft manuscript in a week, that it’s okay to skip a NaNo because the idea isn’t ready yet, and that it’s okay to go to sleep when my brain is like mush.  After all, plenty of others seem to think I’m doing amazing.  Every time any of you (or a number of people in my real life who know what I get up to when I’m not at the day job) tell me that I inspire you with how much I get done, I should point out to myself that it means what I do is enough.  I should use those comments to remind myself when I forget and drive myself crazy.

Now that I’ve had my little rant, I’m going back to editing, before the editor cracks that whip again.  Trust me, those things hurt.  As a reward for listening, I give you a picture.  It’s like a cookie for your eyes.  Yes, I have totally lost it, why do you ask?

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About Julie

I'm a writer and photographer. I always have something with me to take notes for ideas or writing projects I'm thinking about or have on the go. I also like to go around with my camera and take pictures of anything that strikes me as beautiful or evocative. I'm perpetually working on one story or another, while waiting for enough distance to judge the last one (or more). I'm always working on several projects at once, developing the next book, even as I'm editing the last. Beyond that, there's always plenty of scraps and twists of ideas rolling around in my head, eventually turning themselves into full blown stories.
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20 Responses to Punishing Absurdity

  1. I don’t think Inspirational is strong enough a word! You amaze me constantly!

    • Julie says:

      Aww, thanks! Another to tuck away for protection from the inner bitch… I mean editor.

      And you amaze me too. I mean, you have a life. I have imaginary friends… I mean characters.

      (okay, you amaze me for other reasons too, but that sounded like a good line in my head, and the imaginary peanut gallery agreed)

  2. wordsurfer says:

    You sound ready for a vacation. One that includes being far away from any computer or notebook. I think I’m taking back that half hour I sent the other day and instead I’ll send you a mantra along the lines of “I have all the time in the world. I’m doing great.” Repeat that ten times, slowly, every time you start racing again. 🙂

    • Julie says:

      Oh, vacation from writing entirely won’t happen. And it’s not really needed. I’m like this about everything. I push myself mercilessly in the things that matter to me. I’m often just as hard on myself regarding photography. The relentless push for better, for more, is what drives me to improve and to get stuff done. Sometimes I just need to haul back on the reins a bit and remind myself that it’s okay not to do everything instantly. A little perspective, that’s all I need.

  3. Ottabelle says:

    I’m glad you’re seeing how hard you’re being on yourself. I’ve always suspected that. I hope you use this knowledge to tell your inner editor to, ahem, stfu if you know what I mean. You are doing amazingly, much better than anyone could ever imagine. Much better than I could ever imagine myself doing. Maybe you’ll actually go to bed without falling asleep at the keys, hmm? 😉

  4. Pete Denton says:

    Great post. You are inspirational and I can almost hear the inner slave-driving bitch of an editor screaming at you to get back to it. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re doing the writing of about FIVE people so slower is good.

    • Julie says:

      Duly noted, but I doubt she’s willing to listen to reason. She never has before. That said, writing that post was somewhat cathartic and I felt better about my pace. I still do, so far. 🙂

  5. jmmcdowell says:

    Doesn’t your inner editor have some vacation time to use about now? 😉 There’s a fine line between pushing ourselves and overdoing it. From what you describe, your internal editor needs to chill a bit. You are probably pushing yourself far more than easily 95 percent of published authors do!

    • Julie says:

      She violently objects to even the suggestion of a vacation, for either of us. Remember when I went back to visit my folks and I took all of my editing with me, then ran out of stuff to edit? That’s normal for her. She doesn’t do vacations, and I only do them when I’m talking about the day job.

      I think I have her backed off a bit right now though, and it should be long enough for me to feel a bit less pressed. 🙂

  6. 4amWriter says:

    You need to write a letter to your inner editor. Seriously. And in this letter you need to accept that she is only doing what you have given her the power to do–but now you understand that you have to write, or edit, in peace, and to please give you space.

    I know this sounds strange, but I really mean it. Your censor or your inner editor, whatever you want to call this voice that is unsupportive does have your best interests in mind–but it is also being overprotective. Like that psyche that won’t let people remember bad childhood memories.

    The idea behind the letter is kind of like making a pact with yourself (i.e., inner editor) that you’re a team but you need to let each one do its job peacefully and supportively.

    I won’t get all psycho-babbly on you (I did major in psych, but I don’t usually throw this stuff out unless it needs serious attention), so I’ll just let my suggestion rest here and if you want to pick my brain about it more, feel free! 🙂

    Now go kick some inner editor arse!

    • Julie says:

      I wouldn’t say she’s unsupportive. She just wants more, always more. And believe me, she never censors. If anything, she challenges me to take risks, to write out on that limb because it’s the right way to tell the story. It’s more like she’s never satisfied with how much gets done. Not that I’m any better. How often have I said that I *only* wrote 3k in a day? That said, I agree, I need to rein her in a bit. Good progress should be enough. Maybe one day, I’ll get there. 🙂

      • 4amWriter says:

        Right, when I wrote ‘censor’ I meant it loosely–all of that (censor, inner editor, etc) comes from the same place, as you know. And I have found that if we don’t rein each entity in then we get ourselves in some trouble. LIke when we’re not fully satisfied with our daily accomplishments, or when we don’t finish projects, etc. Every writer has her own writing demon (and that might be too harsh a term) but whatever we want to call it, it does give us a hard time in some way.

        • Julie says:

          Yeah. I guess it all comes back to that issue of balance and trying to maintain it. I’m still working on that with regard to writing. 🙂

  7. Subtlekate says:

    You are amazing. You’re doing something you love and your putting everything into it. Remember you’re inspiriting others along the way.

    • Julie says:

      Thanks, Kate. I think mostly I needed to pull back a bit, give myself some credit and get a bit of perspective back. Your kind comments, and everyone else’s has helped in that regard. Much appreciated. 🙂

  8. dex says:

    We share the compulsion to be honest about the weird, sometimes painful elements of writing, though you do so with far more grace than me. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Julie says:

      Oh, I’m graceful! Trust me, it’s only in prose, never in person.

      As for the honesty, I think part of it is that the journey is often easier for me when I have those little moments of “Oh, I’m not alone, so-and-so goes through that too.” If I can offer that to others, then everything has at least some purpose.

      Also, venting it out of my system has a truly cathartic effect for me, and some days, that’s more necessary than breathing. 🙂

      • dex says:

        True points, all. Still, honesty requires vulnerability of a sort and a lot of people just don’t have the courage for that. It’s cool that you do.

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