Nothing triggers my fight or flight response quite like staring at a blank page. (Not even those creepy taupe-colored spiders.) For years now, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with writing. When I’m struggling with writer’s block, nothing could be more frustrating. But when I’ve persevered and I’m happy with something I’ve written, I’m beyond ecstatic.
Even though I’m an editorial assistant at Harlequin, my job does involve some writing. I write the occasional blog post, and I do a fair amount of work with back cover copy. Although much of our cover copy is written by freelancers and then looked over by editors, it is sometimes written in-house, from scratch, by someone like me.
Writing and editing are really two sides of the same coin, but even though they require similar skills, it can be difficult for someone who’s used to flexing their editing muscles to sit down and write. In fact, I find it almost impossible to be creative when I’m wearing my editor’s hat. If I think too much about the finished product my ideas fall apart before they’ve had a chance to form.
But fighting that fight—struggling and succeeding at sharing your story with the world—is important, and my own minor skirmishes have helped me to become a better editor. A co-worker once gave me some valuable editing advice while I was struggling to write some copy. She didn’t think that a paragraph I’d written was working, so she gave me a few suggestions for how I could fix it. When I thanked her, she told me that she always took the time to offer alternatives, so instead of telling an author to change something, she’d make the suggestion and show them a few ways it could be done. I remember being so grateful for her point of view and for her suggestions that I’ve tried to follow her advice ever since.
These days, I’m usually writing cover copy, which involves capturing a story’s plot, characters and tone without giving too much away. It can be tricky, but most cover copy is only a few hundred words, so I have trouble imagining what it’s like to write a full-length novel. I’d love to hear about your strategies for writing. What do you do when you’ve got a deadline and you’d rather do anything—cleaning, cooking, one thousand consecutive games of minesweeper—but write? I’d also love to hear how you turn off the internal editor to let your creativity loose!
(p.s. Roz, it seems as if you and I are on the same wavelength. I really enjoyed reading your post!)