While I have never been diagnosed, I believe I have a number of ADD tendencies. I tend to move from one task to another, leaving various tasks only half complete. It’s hard for me to sit in one place doing only one thing for too long. Obviously, you can see how this makes being a writer difficult.
I can cope with this. When I write, I listen to music, which makes me feel like I am doing multiple things at once. I also will take breaks to check Twitter, get a drink, dance the hokey-poky, whatever. This said, the one trait that I have that makes writing hard, and has been fatal to other WIP in the past, has been my desire to have everything perfect now.
The “make it right the first time” demon has sabotaged many of my endeavors in the past. Whether it be the three other partial novels I have, or my career as a sax player, I have been plagued by this monster that allows for no time. It sits on my shoulder, insisting that I must do it right the first time. Revision? For fools it tells me. It whispers its poisonous diatribe over and over in my ear. It tells me lies like “[Insert author name here] writes perfect stories in one sitting.” So by the time I finish a chapter and things haven’t turned out quite right, I get easily discouraged and start to doubt the strength of my story. This demon has me believing that the only time I will be successful is when I sit down and the words flow with no effort and I write a book in a matter of days that requires no editing and will be published a month later. It’s taken me some time to realise the demon is in no way realistic.
Twitter has been a freeing experience. It has allowed me to follow writers as they work. You know what I found out? They all suck at one time or another. At some time, they all finish a chapter and call it complete rubbish. Some have gone so far as to completely delete the whole thing and start again.
My demon still sits on my shoulder. It still protests loudly when my writing sounds like the stunted first steps of a toddler. But I am learning to ignore it. I am learning that if I am ever to truly call myself a writer, I need to write. And not just write, but finish. It is not important to be perfect the first time around. It doesn’t matter if the first draft is utter rubbish and breaks every rule of grammar and contains none of the plotting devices that create a page-turner. What matters, is that it is finished. What matters is that something exists that wasn’t there before. By having completed a first draft, already part of the battle is won.
It’s OK to suck the first time around. Heck, it’s OK to suck the second time around. Maybe around the third or fourth time, you should suck considerably less, but there may still be room for improvement and it might require a great editor to help you realise where and how to fix it. By letting myself suck, I am getting further ahead. By focusing on the story and the ideas, I am creating something better and stronger. The words will come. The revisions will add the depth my first draft lacks. By the time I finish the first draft, I’ll know my characters better. I’ll know my world better. Once I know these things, I’ll recognize places where I can let those things shine through where I missed them the first time around. My demon is wrong. Great writing doesn’t happen immediately. It happens over time. Revision is where the truth of your quality as a writer will be born. A road doesn’t start out as being smooth. First, there has to be the messy hacking through the forest, the churning of earth, the repeated flattening again and again. A story is much the same.
I suck. And that’s OK.