Monday 7th August 2017
By rights I should be writing about the chapter consolidation work I did today. I should write about how I paired down some of the emotion whilst trying to still have the same impact as previous drafts.
I should also be stressing over the next part of this new chapter. I should tell you about the opening of one of the chapters I’m consolidating and how I love it. How that chapter goes a bit deeper and talks about the nature of fear. How it’s almost a miniature essay.
I would worry about whether it was a darling that needed to be murdered or an essential part of the novel that needed to remains. But if so, how much?
I should be stressing over this chapter consolidation. I should be telling you just how much hard work it is and how I find it impossible. I should be in meltdown
But I’m not. There’s a reason why, and it might be a good thing. It might not be.
I’ve come across this notion of what I’m calling positive distraction over the last couple of weeks.
I think, as a writer, it’s so easy to get caught up in your own head, to worry and stress about details only to in the end go with your gut feeling.
I often feel like I don’t know what I should be doing with a chapter. I’ll sit and stare at it, wondering if a proposed change is a good idea or not. I’ll weigh up the pros and the cons, but mostly I’ll doubt myself. I’ll question my gut feeling, doubt my own logic. I’ll lay awake thinking about them. I’ll spend evenings doing nothing but stressing over the smallest of changes.
It makes the edits painful and slow.
One of the things that has become very apparent is that I need to be more confident as a writer. Instead of saying the same thing three different ways to cover all my bases, I should say it once and then not worry what people who misinterpret think. It’s a difficult change to learn.
But to do that, I’m wondering if I need to get out of my own head at times. I wonder if I should briefly consider the edits, weigh up the pros and cons, go with my gut and then move on.
I’ve noticed that a lot of the vloggers I’m watching seem to like positive distraction. In the case of the athletes, it’s a way for them to stop think about their performance in a sport and worry about video editing and social media instead.
Now some of this, no doubt, is lead either by sponsorship duties or commercial ventures. And a lot of this work is about their sport so it is relevant. But I don’t think the vlogs are going to help them become better athletes. Perhaps they’ll review the footage and make notes but as any sportsman will tell you, the real changes will come in the gym or on the track where you train.
But I do think they still serve a purpose. I think they act as positive distraction. I think they are a pressure value, a way to still be connected to their sport but get their head out of practise for a time, to instead worry about video production and color correction instead of form and performance.
In recent months I’ve found myself wishing I had a hobby. Whilst I don’t write fulltime (yet) I put a ridiculous number of hours into it. It, long ago, stopped being a hobby and something I took very seriously.
And I doing so, I miss doing things that I can suck at. I mean, I suck at a lot of things, but always there’s a drive in me to be the best. I love being the underdog. I love doing impossible things because I’m too stubborn to give up. But just sometimes I would like to do things where it didn’t feel like life and death if I was bad at something.
I nearly started drawing, but it was producing the daily vlogs for Chasepalooza that I really enjoyed. The videos had to be pumped out at speed, so there was not time to worry if they were good or bad. I enjoyed the challenge of producing them because I didn’t have any expectation on myself of their quality.
The swordfighting, I take a lot more seriously. It’s not at the levels of my writing yet, and I doubt I’d ever be able to be professional at it. But I’m driven to go up the rankings, to put in the time and the hard work needed and do the impossible.
Yet there are still parallels with the writing. There are patterns. And sometimes a problem in the writing can be solved by looking at the equivalent problem in swordfighting.
Maybe there’s just as much pressure to succeed as the writing, but it’s a slightly different pressure.
And so I’ve found that one can really act as the positive distraction for the other. If I have a big tournament I’m stressing about, I can focus on the writing. Likewise, if I’m making huge changes to the manuscript, to stop myself getting myself in knots over the edits, I can focus on the swordfighting.
Don’t get me wrong. I always knew that the end of July into early August would be incredibly swordfighting focused, but I’m surprised just how much editing work I’ve been able to do – mostly because it’s been a background task and I’ve not wasted mental resources.
I’m still not sure if it’s the right thing. Maybe the positive distraction will just lead to poor edits. But maybe it’ll strip out all the pointless worrying and stressing so that I make dispassionate edits that really serve the book and not the writer. Tournaments need me to be focused all day on the competition at hand, but maybe the edits just need me to be focused when I’m working on the manuscript.
Whichever it is, the edits have felt easier this past week, despite the magnitude of changes I’m making. Whether the edits are any good, still remains to be seen.
If you want to follow more of my journey, then be sure to check me on my social channels. Likewise, if you’d like me to expand on any point mentioned above, please say so in the comments.
- Twitter: @figures
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