One of the most challenging aspects of this commitment to post every day for seven consecutive days has not been the writing. The biggest challenge, especially for a perfectionist, has been practicing restraint in editing.
I felt kind of ridiculous when I publicly accepted the Daily Post challenge in my “Buts” piece. I knew we would be on the road, visiting family, celebrating Christmas. Not only was I committing to write, which is challenging enough even when you’re just scratching private thoughts in a journal, but I was committing to post content every day. Publicly. Which kind of means, especially for a perfectionist, that it can’t be complete drivel.
At home, I procrastinate writing until I can get my fingers on a keyboard. And even then, I am very particular about my routine. I boil water, pour some in my mug to warm it up, and pour some over coffee, coarsely ground, in my French press. I steep it for five minutes, pour the strong black brew into my warmed mug, add 1 teaspoon of raw sugar and 2 tablespoons of half and half, then walk over to the computer, place my mug at the top left corner of the keyboard, and position my hands for typing. This is my writing ritual.
On the road, I am without these accoutrement. Right now, I am in the car, scribbling this post, in ink, on the lined pages of a navy blue soft cover Moleskine. At my desktop, thanks to the typing class I took in high school (possibly the most practical course I took in my entire 16 years of education), I can get the words onto “paper” as fast as they enter my brain. And, as importantly, I can not only set up a writing station, but can easily delete, cut, paste, rearrange, insert. Edit as I go.
In the car, my lined paper is smeared with blue ink, as is the outside of my right hand. The Moleskine pages are sloppy with arrows, cross-outs, and tiny afterthoughts crammed between already inky lines. There is little room for editing on the 5×8 pages. There is only room for getting ideas onto paper in their naked, newborn form.
Because I don’t want to use up all of our visiting time staring at a computer screen, my back to the family we see only two or three times a year, I mostly just transfer those naked words from paper to screen. So what I end up posting on the blog is raw and unedited. At home, I not only edit as I type, but I go back and re-read a piece in its entirety several times, first in the edit window on my WordPress dashboard, then in preview mode so that I can see what the post will look like when it goes live.
I’m not taking any of these editing steps during our holiday travels, and it kind of makes me die a little inside. But I’m learning the value of writing without editing. My posts are in raw form. Ideas aren’t fully developed, the finished pieces aren’t polished. They contain mistakes and are often disorganized and aren’t fleshed out as much as they would be if I sat down at my desk, with my green coffee mug at the top left of my keyboard, and actually worked on them.
But I’ve written dialog, which I never do. And I’ve sketched out little stories about people other than myself, which is, embarrassingly, also rare for me. I’ve tried new things, written pieces unlike anything I’ve ever written, simply because during our travels, I have no time to put it off. No time to procrastinate until everything is just so. I’ve had to shut down fear and overthinking so that I can fulfill my 30 minutes a day.
And so, without obstruction, the ideas flow. The beauty of this challenge is that it is teaching me which ones are worth coming back to. Which ones deserve time at my desk. Which ones are worth interpretation, with coffee and thought, rather than simple transcription from paper to screen.
I have committed to posting every day for a week in response to the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge: Just Do It. I wrote about my stupid decision to make this commitment, and all my “buts,” here.
3 thoughts on “The challenge of the challenge: not editing.”
Honestly, this “raw, unedited” post is one of my favorites and contrary to what you may think, very well said. I thought I was reading from my own thoughts. I LOVE the PROCESS of writing. This was an especially joyful read.
Wow, thank you. I too love the actual process of writing. I’ve tried many hobbies, but none of them stuck because I didn’t enjoy the actual doing. I only wanted the pretty quilt, or the funky knitted hat. With writing, I’m just as contented by the process as I am with the finished product.
I’m jealous you have a NAVY BLUE moleskine. my favorite color along with green. 😉
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