One of the things I like about National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is I have to write fast to make it. Writing 50,000 words in 30 days means I need to average about 1,700 words a day, every day, which is over twice what I usually write. Given that I can’t spend all day writing, I have no time to waste when I sit down. I don’t have a lot of time to think about the words I’m writing or to go back and change what I’ve written. It’s all about the creative flow and not about getting it perfect, which is very liberating in a way.
I find my process to create something new is very different from my process to analyze that creation and hone it into something stronger. For me, constantly switching between these two processes is inefficient, and I find when I’m struggling with a story, often it’s because I’m allowing myself to overthink it (usually because I underthought it in the initial outlining phase). Instead of creating, I’m analyzing, then trying to create, and analyzing and creating and. . . .you see the problem.
Over the years I’ve gotten better at identifying when this happens—surprisingly it’s not all that hard to tell, so I find it amazing it took me so long to figure it out. If a story is going to work, the first draft will usually write itself without much trouble. When that fails, I’ve learned that I need to step away from the story entirely, upload all the various pieces back into my head, and let it stew for a while longer until I really know what it’s all about. Once it has jelled sufficiently, I can sit back down at the keyboard and allow the creative process to kick in. It’s fruitless for me to struggle over individual words and sentences and constantly rewrite paragraphs; that simply doesn’t work.
Of course everyone writes differently and every writer needs to find what works for him or her. For me, keeping the editing out of the creating process is what I need to do.