There are many tasks, many activities that are involved in the over arching thing called being a writer. Writing is the biggest part, of course. It’s the activity that the job is named after. It’s the verb associated with the noun. But when one wants to become a professional, many more tasks come to become almost as important as the writing itself.
This came to me last night as the end of the day approached. Bedtime was at the doorstep and the count of (new) words written down was effectively 0. None. Null. The word count was nothing. Panic started to set in. With everyone in the house going to bed (and my first attempt to sleep with my brand-new-straight-from-the-sleep-doctor-sleep-appliance), I had to figure out whether I was going to attempt to stay up and write. Then I remembered something:
Editing and revising are important parts of writing. Yesterday I spent almost 4 hours of my day on that. I trimmed and cut and rewrote passages in one of my other projects. Did I write brand new stuff? No, but I did write a lot… only as part of one of those “other” writing tasks. In other words, I was writing; I was being a writer— even if it wasn’t new stuff.
Being OK with that feeling is something novel (pun intended). Before, if the word count for fresh writing (which is all I count since there is also a lot of deleting in revising so it is tough to count words) is at 0, I would panic like I started to last night. It didn’t matter what I was doing, even if the full 16-ish hours I was awake for whatever day it was was spent doing things like revising, cover design, formatting, publishing, editing, marketing, or whatever other writing-based tasks there were, if the new word count was 0, I was a failure.
If that was truly the case, when was it expected to then do these other tasks? When would the editing happen, or the cover design, anything else if all the time was going to be locked up in writing itself?
The thing is that they wouldn’t get done. And they haven’t really been. It’s how projects end up piling up and/or things start to get pushed out in a rush. It’s how these tasks get short-changed in both time and quality of work. It’s like spending all one’s time researching for a paper to then leave only 1 minute before its due to then type it. Is it getting done? Most likely no. Done well? Hell no. How could one expect the revision or editing to be done and done well if the time and effort given to it is like the rush of a school kid trying to get their whole research project done the night before it is due— no, the morning of when it is due?
It will take time to adjust to this new way of thinking. These activities have been neglected for too long. Skills need to be strengthened in these areas and the only true way to do it is through effort. Doing the tasks helps one become better at the tasks. Writing new stuff is important, yes. There is no dispute there. For now, the other tasks need to get some love. Maybe someday a balance will be found where there is a little of each done effectively each day. Until then, spending my day editing/revising is well worth the time spent not “writing”.