Me and my inner proofreader – a difficult relationship

I’ve been reading a novel which I’m enjoying even though my Inner Proofreader keeps noticing things that aren’t phrased so well – I find myself reading and thinking: it’s a good job there are enough people out there who are content to publish stuff that isn’t perfect, or else there wouldn’t be so many novels for me to read. And as far as I’m concerned a world without novels to read would be even worse than a world without chocolate.

And yes, my Inner Proofreader is also pointing upwards at my post title and yelling loudly. Yes, I know, I told IP, it should be “my inner proofreader and I”, but that’s the whole point – I need to rebel a bit now and again. I need to let my creativity flow and put away the red pen for a while. Editing can come later, but writing needs to happen first, or I’ll have nothing to edit.

I don’t mean blogs – I’m pretty good at blogging freely, without too much editing going on until I’ve finished, at which point I read through the post and do the necessary edits before hitting “publish”. I’m not talking about blogging, I’m talking about what happens when I write fiction – that’s when I tend to pause and edit and think and rethink and… I lose the impetus.

That’s at least one of the problems I have with writing fiction, it’s one of the reasons why I’m so good at starting novels but have yet to complete one. Another is that I am naturally a lot better at short sprints than marathons, much better at completing tasks that can be done in one short burst than persevering over a long period of time – and the longer it takes, the more opportunities there are for doubts to creep in: is this storyline really going to work? maybe I shouldn’t have chosen that place or that time or that name for a character or…

I got into a conversation on Google Plus the other day with a creative guy called Max Rubenacker, who got a bunch of us throwing ideas around on the subject of unfinished writing, drafts and stuff that we may have started writing one day but for some reason never finished, and one of the thoughts that came up in that conversation was that maybe what we call unfinished work is actually something of value, that maybe it’s worth sharing that stuff anyway. There was a suggestion that maybe a collection of these fragments could be published somehow, and I thought it sounded like fun but at the same time I felt that what I personally need is more motivation to work at the stuff, not a pat on the head saying “there there, it’s ok as it is”.

I’ve come up with a kind of mix of the two: I am going to start publishing my fragments, but not as a final “there, I’ve got rid of it now” but rather as an attempt to get myself to work on it some more – instead of leaving things in a drawer or a folder out of my sight, I’m going to post them online in a place that I’ll visit regularly. It will be my writing place. It will be a place to keep all the scraps and fragments and beginnings and middles and sketches and ideas – all that unformed word-material, which came into being as a result of some creative idea I had, but needs to be given a bit more attention, not to stay buried and forgotten.

And maybe, just maybe, I can start doing with my writing the same thing that I find I sometimes have to do with tasks on my to do list: just pick one, it doesn’t matter which one, don’t spend all day dithering. Pick one thing and get on with it. What’s the worst thing that could happen? I could write some crap. That’s not the end of the world. On the other hand, I might actually end up producing some good stories. Not perfect – just good.

And my Inner Proofreader will then be able to get the red pen out and have some fun!


Oops, I nearly forgot: if you want to read those bits I’ll be posting, here’s where it’s going to be happening.

Questions? Thoughts? Talk to me - I don't bite :)

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