Editing the Lies by Pamela Mytroen
Fear has lied to us about our writing. It is time to edit those lies and re-write truth on our hearts and minds instead.
Cycle of Lies/Cycle of Truth
I will not start writing because it has to be perfect. Re-write it into truth. “I will write to the best of my ability. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be helpful to somebody else.” (Think of the last book you read. Was it perfect? No? Did you enjoy it and get something out of it?) Try what Jerry Jenkins says. He says that fear of failure still hangs over his head but now he embraces it. Fear is beneficial, he says, because it motivates him to do his best. Acknowledge the fear of failure, and use it to craft your best work.
I will not finish this piece because it’s full of mistakes. “I will push through and finish, even with a trail of mistakes behind me. Then at least I will have something to revise.” You can edit garbage, but you cannot edit that which you’ve deleted.
I will not release or publish it because this story has been told before. It might not be popular or significant. Every story has been told before, but not in your style. As for significance, not every story is a bestseller. What is profound to one person may be boring another person. Have you ever found a bestseller to be disappointing, but an obscure author to be riveting? Re-write that lie: “I will tell my story my way, and trust that somebody will be impacted by it.”
I will not write again because not everybody liked my work. Perceived failure must not hold us back from trying again. After a poor review by one of my English students, I was reminded that I was not in control and never was. I had poured myself into teaching English, and had decided that I was in control, and I would make my students learn! Wrong. They learned what they wanted to and in the end, some of them were not satisfied. It was a humbling lesson, but oh how valuable, as I am learning to let go of the lie that I am in control, and to allow the students to manage their own learning.
In the same way, if we believe that our readers will be ecstatic with our writing, we are setting ourselves up for crushing disappointment. Re-write the lie:
“I am not in control once I send my words into the world! I will let go of my reader and trust him to interpret my writing in his own way. He will view my stories through the screen door of his own life. He may be offended, or he may love it, but he may not get exactly what I meant. So, I might as well enjoy writing to the best of my ability, and trust that some readers will connect with my story.”
My new truth-writing cycle looks like this. What would yours look like?
“I am not in control, thankfully, and I will let go of that ridiculous standard of perfection; I will allow myself to fail knowing that I will be motivated by it to improve. Though I will study my craft and aim for excellence, I will allow myself to write garbage to get started. I will push through and finish even if I’m aware of a trail of mistakes behind me; I will keep the gems and polish the pebbles until they shine because I cannot edit or publish what I’ve deleted. I will release my work to the world, trusting that my story – told my way – will be treasured by some. And then I will do it all over again.”
If Pam Mytroen could spend all day in her kitchen baking pies, brownies, and making turkey dinner for friends, she would. But Murray Pura once told her to write first and then bake—advice that she is trying to stick with these days, except, of course, when her grandchildren stop in for milk and cookies.