Past me is not that bad
As I get near the end of the school year, I always get into a reflective mood. How much have my students grown? What have they learned? What did I do that worked well, and what could I do better next time?
As I start the editing process on my next manuscript, this is a useful headspace for me to be in. That is, after all, the whole driving force behind editing and revising creative work. What are my characters arcs? What are their trajectories? How have they grown? What needs to change in order to fit?
I mentioned in a previous post that editing and revising is my least favorite part of the writing process. It is absolutely necessary and vital – there is no perfect first draft, and as writers, we must hone our craft to make the best possible story we can, every time – but man alive, is it painful. It strains the eyes and the brain. It forces you to look at what you did before and acknowledge how (for lack of a nicer word) bad it really is, even when in the moment it felt super fun and good. When I look at what I’ve written before, I start to develop a sense of disdain for “Past Me.” How could Past Me have written this? Did he think it was good? Past Me is a terrible writer.
That’s not true, of course. There is no meaningful difference between Past Me and Present Me beside the fact that I’ve let my mind wander a bit before coming back to the draft. But that impulse is there, and it contributes to making the editing and revising stage terrible. Terribleness aside, it’s work that’s got to be done, so into it we must go.
Write your story!
-J. E. Ayers
Jeff Ayers writes books that are pretty good.