I spent several hours Sunday taking a class at the Indiana Writer's Center. This one was called "Overcoming perfectionism," both the tendency to fiddle with a manuscript during and after the writing to make it better, and the occasional sheer cliff of doubt that rears up when you look at your idea versus your skill set and wonder if you can possibly scale such a height.
Like any but the most nuts-and-bolts of writing classes -- and perhaps even those -- what it's really about is how the only way to be a writer is to get your fundament in a chair and write.
One of the best things about being a writer is the feeling of having written; one of the worst things is looking at a blank page and having to fill it up. Next-to-worst is line-editing, the drudgery of fixing every typo and misspelling, locating every misplaced comma and so on. And don't even get me started about hunting shifts of tense and viewpoint, mistakes of number and agreement, sneaky malapropisms and other missteps! --But between the blank page and the various kinds of editing is the writing. There's no way around it. And with the writing comes rewriting -- it's not a simple, linear process.
That's really what the class was about. Everyone in the class, even our instructor, was or had been put off by their process. After all, it was famously said of Shakespeare, "in his writing, whatever he penned, he never blotted out a line;" Henry James dictated finished prose that was promptly typed up, submitted to editors and published, right? Right -- and this is remarked on because it is so unusual. It's not how most writers work.
I found the class reassuring. I managed to put in some work on a story that had me stumped. Now all I need to do is keep going.
2 months ago