Writing: A Mind Game

Photo credit: neutralSurface on Flickr
Thinking back, when I first began writing I viewed my drafts very differently. Although somewhere deep down inside I knew that first drafts were meant to be just that—a first draft—I viewed them as near-complete drafts. I'd put so much time and effort into it already that I was resistant to the idea that it could possibly need much more work. How was it possible that something so difficult to write would require even more work than what I already put into it?

So sure, I edited, but not really. They were line edits—tweaking a sentence here, and a few paragraphs there—making the writing sound better without even considering that the story might still need work.

In my mind, that first draft I slaved over didn't need major changes—it just needed a little brushing up. Needless to say, my thinking was more than a little off; it just took me a while to realize it.

Now, many years and shelved manuscripts later, I've come to realize that my thinking has changed entirely. I no longer dread editing like I used to, and before I write a single word in a new draft, I go in with a completely new mindset: I go in knowing that my first draft is just a first draft. That I have many edits ahead, and things can only get better from here. That this first draft is mine.

I once read that the first draft is largely for the writer, and over time I've truly come to believe it. The first draft is the place where you meet new characters and discover new worlds and work out the bones of the story so that you can refine and deepen the writing later on. The first draft is fun and exciting and a little bit scary, and yes, many times the writing is terrible but it doesn't matter because those words are for your eyes and your eyes only. And there's some freedom in that.

And since changing my thinking, I've noticed something else has changed—I've started to enjoy the process more. That's not to say I didn't like writing before, but I didn't exactly enjoy every stage of the process, particularly, you know, the editing. But since I've realized that I really only scratch the surface of my story with the first draft, since I've realized that editing truly allows me to dive in with a whole new understanding of what the story is really about, since I've changed my thinking, I've truly begun to enjoy the process in ways I never did before.

And this whole experience has brought one more realization: writing is a mind game.

Everything from the doubts that make you hesitate before diving into that first draft, from the heavy feeling in the pit of your stomach when you're faced with yet another revision, from the boulder known as writer's block to the whispers in your mind that your writing simply isn't good enough—it's all a mind game.

A mind game that we can take control of by changing our thinking. A mind game that we can use to our advantage, simply by reminding ourselves of the good of each step: whether it's the discovery of the first draft or the knowledge that every edit you make will improve your story.

I challenge you to find something good, something enjoyable in every step of the writing process. I challenge you to enjoy the writing, enjoy the editing, enjoy knowing that this is your work and that you can only make it better from here.

You're a writer, and writing stories is what you do. Now go have some fun with it.

What do you think—does your mindset really affect your writing? How so?


Julia Tomiak ツ said...

I so needed this today! The little voice was telling me that I had no business writing- without a degree or more formal training. Thanks for the reminder that writing is for me, and that I can, and should, decide to enjoy it.

Ava Jae said...

You're very welcome, Julia! The little voice is a very good liar. I wish you the best with your writing and don't forget to have fun! :)

Grace Robinson said...

Since I'm in the editing phase with my main project, I've really enjoyed and appreciated all of your posts about the editing process. It helps my mindset! :)

Ava Jae said...

Happy to help, Grace! Glad to hear you've found the posts useful! ^_^

E.B. Black said...

Ironically, I hate writing the first draft. I prefer the editing process because even when I'm struggling, I can look through hundreds of pages of work and feel proud of myself for writing that much.

Writing definitely is a mind game. It's why we need beta readers. I don't trust my brain at all to perceive the reality of my writing accurately whether good or bad.

Ava Jae said...

I definitely understand enjoying the editing process more than first drafting--having a draft to work off of and improve rather than creating the clay, so to speak, is something that I also find encouraging.

Also, great point about beta readers. Good beta readers or critique partners are worth their weight in gold.

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