Write First – Edit Later – Editing While Writing Causes Writer’s Block

I have talked to a number of people about what they are calling Writer’s Block, but I believe that they are confusing writing with editing. I believe that what many people call writer’s block is actually editor’s block. One of my best pieces of advice for writing is to remember this:

There is a Time to Write and a Time to Edit
Don’t Try to Mix the Two.

Especially for the creative writer, I advocate free writing. When I decide what my topic will be, I simply begin to write. I don’t pause to worry about how to spell this or that, and I don’t worry about commas. During the very earliest part of writing something, I don’t even spend much time trying to put the gerund phrases where they belong, and I don’t try to avoid splitting infinitives. This will probably sound odd to many, but throughout my writing process, I often close my eyes and simply type. When I am trying to describe something, that works especially well. It also works when I am trying to hush my Self-Editor.

During the first stages of writing, simply write. Save the editing for later.

Just keep going like crazy and look back when it’s over. Otherwise you just get confused. – Cliff Burton-

Don’t get me wrong. There IS a time for editing. In my opinion, editing is not a pleasant experience and that is why I never mix my editing with my writing.

“While writing is like a joyful release, editing is a prison where the bars are my former intentions and the abusive warden my own neuroticism.” ― Tiffany Madison

When you write, you should allow your mind and your spirit to flow freely.

You should allow yourself to reach as far as you can reach and to explore. If you begin editing too soon in your process, you will prevent yourself from soaring, and you will slam your creative brakes too soon, thus starving your mind to death.

After I have finished writing, it is time to put on my work gloves and to begin editing. For me, editing is much more difficult than writing. In fact, I KNOW that I have Editor’s Block. I’ll do just about anything to keep from editing my work, but even the most creative of us CAN edit as well as we can write. The two processes are simply different.

“Put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.” – Colette

While we are writing, we should allow our words to dance freely and when we edit, we should scrutinize ourselves, but in my opinion, we should never try to mix the two.

Since I am also a writer, there is a third step to my picture book writing process: illustrating.

Because I am a visual person, I begin seeing my book’s illustrations in my mind, simultaneously as I write the text.  Actually, I see the illustrations before I write the text. As I said before, I often close my eyes when I am typing my text. When I do that, I see the pictures of how my book will proceed BEFORE I write the text–and then, I simply write the words that describe what my mind is seeing.

Yet, I never begin the labor of actual illustrating until the manuscript is complete.

I am not illustrating my debut picture book at all, and I am thrilled about that.

Gypsy Rose Lee
From Kalamazee
In Kalamazong, Mazoo
Jacki Kellum – Copic Marker Sketch for Illustration

My illustration style is comical, and my debut picture book is far from comical. In fact, my debut picture book is reverent. I am thrilled that my editor has the wisdom and the experience to realize that I am not the right illustrator for my debut picture book.

Indeed, my third and last step for creating my picture books is that of illustrating what I have written. But unlike what many think, being an author-illustrator is not always the best plan. My debut picture book was picked out of a dark well during a Twitter Pitch event, and I did not place any images at all with that pitch. I knew that my illustrating style was not right for that book. Remember: If your illustrations do not make your text sing, they will not help your manuscript be discovered.

But this week, I am moving to my new, 125-year-old house, I am not writing or editing or illustrating, either. I am packing.