Danger: Sharp Curves Ahead

I pay attention to red flags. No swimming in dangerous surf, no kite flying in thunderstorms, no visiting sketchy websites. Imagine my surprise when I discovered a red-flag word lurking in my vocabulary. Until I read a recent post by Kristen Lamb, I didn’t even realize how disruptive it could be. Now I crash into it several times a day.

Whenever I say, hear, or think it, I need to stop and pay attention. Why? It’s my excuse word. A red flag that indicates I’m wavering in my priorities. When used, it can bounce me out of my writing chair.

Kristen Lamb’s word is BUSY. We all have limited time, and seemingly unlimited requests for it. She discovered too busy is a polite way to say, “I have something else to do that’s more important.” I recommend you read her post. You’ll feel less judgmental when someone drops the b-word on you.

Her priority comment made me wonder. Was I using too busy to avoid my writing time? I started paying attention to the excuse words that rattled around in my brain. It didn’t take long for my word to make an appearance.

I should clean out that closet.

I should check Twitter.

I should make my grocery list.

A critical should seemed to pop up whenever I sat at my desk. If I did manage to ignore those should activities and decide I really should be writing, different objections surfaced.

I should have already finished this.

I should try that new technique.

I should hire an editor.

When I started this blog, I set a goal to publish one post per week. After all, my main goal is to finish my novel-not write millions of blog posts. I decided to take the advice of blog guru, Jeff Goins. (See my previous post here.) Write five hundred words a day. Rough drafts generate copy to edit and result in articles to publish. The advice is solid, my should became the problem.

I have no difficulty generating five hundred words. The more I write, the more things I find to write about. As I continued to pound out these daily pieces, I became overwhelmed by rough drafts. Ideas don’t equal finished products. It takes a lot of refining and rewriting to form random thoughts into something cohesive and hopefully readable. Editing is not optional.

Editing takes me a LONG time. I can fuss over a piece, debate word choices, rearrange paragraphs, and finally put it away only to restart the cycle when I read it again. Maybe I should be able to write, edit, and then publish, but in practice it isn’t that straightforward. Each time I read it, on my laptop, on paper, as a preview on the website, I find errors, unclear sections, or poor word choices.

Unedited pieces stacked up in my to-do folder. Now, not only should I write five hundred words a day, but I also should edit five hundred words a day. Believe me, two shoulds do not make a write. They steal time from my work-in-progress. I may never finish the damn novel, but that may indicate a psychological barrier that needs attention. I should probably investigate that.

You don’t want to know how many hours I spent rearranging the words you’re reading now. I’m not sure I’ve eliminated all the errors, but in the end, I must hit publish and walk away. I feel like I should be able to write better and faster, maybe that comes with practice. In the meantime, I should edit another chapter, or maybe clean the bathroom.

Leave a comment and share your red-flag word with me.

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