Baby animals. Curiosity. Those two words definitely fit together. This morning I was looking out the window at the cow pasture behind our house. There was a rather large, beefy (no pun intended) bull standing in the middle of about 4 or 5 calves. The bull was standing solid, not moving a muscle. The calves were hesitantly approaching him, stretching their necks out so their noses could sniff, sniff at him. The bull did not move. He was either standing his ground sending a message of, “Don’t be messin’ with me!” Or he was being careful not to scare the little ones. I could see which calves were more hesitant, and which had more guts. One in particular brazenly walked through the hesitant ones, sniffed at the bull’s nose, then walked right underneath him as if looking to nurse. The bull never flinched. Never moved. The calves got no reaction from him. Pretty soon the calves grew bored and wandered off to graze or nestle into the hay for a nap.
Thinking of my inner editor, if I stand solid, like that bull, and refuse to give in to my inner editor will I be more productive? It’s very hard to ignore that tendency to go back, delete, reorder, correct. Just like the brazen calf, nudging and sniffing at the bull, my inner editor is constantly nudging at me. It seems I can’t rest until I listen to it. I have a hard time moving forward until I have gone back.
An author, giving advice to struggling writers, said, “Do not go back. Just write. Get the story on paper. There will be time to go back.” I fight this advice because, for me, going back spurs my story forward. As I reread what I’ve written, more ideas come to me. Characters develop out of what I’ve all ready written. Review. Is that different than editing? Being honest, I have to admit that as I review I do correct and change things here and there.
I would be curious to hear from other writers on this subject. What is your strategy to get the story going? Do you preview what you’ve all ready written? Do you edit, or fight the tendency to edit? Is there really a “right” way to get a story on paper? Does going back hinder your forward progress?
Do I stand solid, like the bull, stubbornly refusing to give in to the tendency to go back? Or do I respond to my tendencies that nudge and prod me like the little calf?