I Want To Let Go and Fly Free
Photograph by Matt Preston
But it’s a difficult task for me.
Today, I want to talk about something that is a personal issue when it comes to writing my manuscripts.
I suspect that I’m not alone in this dilemma.
Perhaps, we could consider this group therapy
Group Therapy Illustration by Daneel Ariantho
The group moderator points at me. He says, “Will you please stand, tell us your name, and why you’re here today.” I stand on wobbly chicken legs, steady myself, and trudge to the front of the group. I spin around and see forty-eight pairs of accusing eyes burning a whole in my spirit.
I clear my throat.
“My name is Kent, and I’m a… a… well, for lack of an official term, I’ve made up my own. I’m a revisionist, an over-editor, a re-writer, a chronic restructurer, a plot replacementist, a text evangelist, a perpetual fixit monger, a do-over demon, a prose replenisher-” (I pull out a hankie and blow my nose).
I know it’s wrong to do these things. I’m well read in the reference books for writers.” (I blow my nose again.) “But sometimes, I just can’t help myself. When I begin writing, I try to go back to the place where I left off in the manuscript- And then some line catches my eye. Some perverted, twisted, little fiend of a sentence that calls out to me from two chapters back. It’s seductive, luring me in.
I know I can make it better, I tell myself.” (I’m now in a full-blown cry.) “I tell myself, just this one. I’ll fix this one line! And then I’m going straight to where I left off.”
The Moderator asks, “And do you Kent? Do you fix the one line and then go straight to where you left off, so that you can move forward in your story?”
“No! You idiot! That’s why I’m here!
(A murmur rises from the group.) (I’m sobbing.)
No… That one sentence leads to another, and then another, and then… before I know what’s happened, It’s been a month or more, and all I’ve done is rewrite Chapters one through six, several times!
(I’m gasping. It’s getting messy).
The moderator hands me a box of tissues. “Is there anything else you want to tell us, Kent? Is that the extent of it?”
My bulging red eyes are so full of tears, I can barely see him. He looks straight at me, and asks, “You’re a manuscript regurgitater aren’t you?”
I bite my lip Hard before responding, “Wow, I wish I’d thought of that name; that’s a good one.”
“Answer the question please. Confront your demons, Kent. Confront them, and it will allow you to let go and fly free.”
His straightforward pushy attitude emboldens me. I straighten up and look defiantly into the eyes of my accusers.
“It’s true. I am a manuscript regurgitator. I’ve fought this… this weight upon my shoulders for a long time. But recently… recently… it’s turned into a real battle. A story that I wrote two years ago.” (I’m blowing my nose.)
“I put the finishing touches on that manuscript two years ago. But, I keep going back to it, and I read it.
AND EVERY TIME I DO- I WANT TO CHANGE IT AND MAKE IT BETTER! I can’t stop myself. I’ve been working on it for months- A story I finished two freaking years ago!”
The moderator put his hand on my shoulder. “It’s okay, Kent. That’s enough for tonight. Sit down, and the group will show you that you’re not alone.”
I sit down in the back row, bring my knees together, and let my head hang. But, I’m still peeking from the corner of my eye.
The moderator clears his throat. “Is there anyone else here tonight who is a perpetual fixit monger?” Hands went up. “Do any of you battle internal do-over demons?”: I raised my head- more hands went up into the air. “Okay, how many of you are manuscript regurgitators?” Almost all the hands drop.
I sneer. (Whatever)
The moderator points at me with one hand, and another person (whose hand is still raised) with the other.
“I’ll bet one hundred dollars, right now, that you two are perfectionists. Just shake your head, yes.”
The moderator continued, “Listen to me, and listen to me good.
There is no such thing as perfection. You need to learn to let go and fly free!
If you can’t return to the point in your manuscript, where you left off writing, without starting another rewrite-
Then have someone else get the manuscript to that point for you!
Reward yourself for success! And punish yourself for faltering!
Stick a piece of paper on the wall behind your desk that says, ‘Don’t you dare go back and look, Stupid!‘
Then, tape another sheet to the wall. On this one write on many edits you think you need to produce the best product possible!
How many edits, Kent? Tell me right now!”
“I need… ten… ten edits.”
“That seems excessive. But we all know you have a problem. So, Kent needs ten edits! Now Kent, you write one through ten on that piece of paper. Every time you edit through your story, you cross off one number until you hit zero. And when you hit zero, you NEVER go back and edit that story again.
Capiche? And if you do- You’re going through the spanking machine! Got it?”
Group Session Over
Any of this sound familiar to you?
All of this came to a head for me the other night when my wife and I went out for dinner. We were sitting in one of those sports bar type places, where you order burgers, fries, and a beer. Big screen TV‘s splashed with the noise of sports action encompassed us on all sides.
Photograph by The Cable Channel
I was sipping my beer and looking at the screen above us. This particular television had the European Stunt Motocross Championships on it. I watched with mild interest, as I saw a young man fly up over a very large hill of dirt. His motorcycle jettisoned from the peak and flew thirty, maybe forty, feet into the air.
He then did something that made my jaw drop. He let go of the motorcycle.
The television cameras immediately switched to slow motion. I could see the wheels of the bike spinning. The man flew several feet above the motorcycle, his arms spread back into a V shape – like he had wings. He looked like, Superman, flying through the sky.
He sailed above the bike for what seemed like a very long time, then just before the arc finished, and the bike was about to descend, he gently reached down, grabbed the handlebars, and pulled himself back onto the motorcycle. He performed the stunt flawlessly.
Instantly, I wondered what it must have felt like the first time he attempted that stunt.
After a few moments of thought,
I knew the key that would unlock the door to my writing issues.
I visualized that stunt driver’s attitude on life. I discovered that I need to believe in my ability to perform, just like he did. I must have the strength, and courage, to let go and fly free, confident in my ability to land and perform again.
That moment changed my outlook.
All of us, here at NovelNook.com, want you to succeed. Write your best stories possible, edit them to the best of your ability, and then let go and fly free!
I am very opinionated about the craft of writing, and life in general. But… I am well-tempered with an enthusiasm for debate. Please leave comments, even the ugly ones, I dare you.
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I’m also an avid reader. If you desire success in your writing career, you should be too.
I’m currently reading, “Unexplained Mysteries of World War II”, by William B. Breuer
All my best on a beautiful day in South Carolina.