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What I Learned While Writing a Novel, Writing

June 25, 2013

Painting and Writing, or Some Motivation to Edit

I’m in the midst of a home renovation, and the most recent stage has involved a good deal of interior painting. Painting a room is like writing, in the sense that painting itself is only a small percentage of the whole process. There’s choosing the colors, cleaning the walls, spackling, washing or sanding post-spackle, taping, and maybe priming before a gloriously hued brush hits the wall. And then after the paint’s up, you’ve got to clean your rollers, take down the tape, move furniture back into place, hang things back on the walls. “Painting” proper is a blip in the course of the whole thing.


Sometimes writing feels that way too. For as long as it takes to get the words on paper, there is so much more time, at least in my experience, spent editing. Between my own revisions and those following notes by my beta readers and agent, I’ve already been editing my first novel for longer than it took me to write it. And should it be sold to a publisher, I know that editor is going to have more edits for me as well.


Perhaps “writing” is a romantic to say, “editing for the umpteenth time.” I wonder, should this novel be published and I go on to write more, at what point the balance will tip in the other direction, if it will tip at all.


In the meantime, I’m sharing a couple of quotes that keep me motivated through both actually writing and “writing.”


First, from Toni Morrison:


“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”


And piggybacking off of that:


“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”


To be fair, I don’t know where this quote comes from. It’s falsely attributed to Mahatma Gandhi. Wherever it comes from, I’ve taken it to mean what I need it to mean, and it keeps me moving.


As for “writing,” i.e. endlessly editing, from Marianne Williamson (and later, Nelson Mandela):


“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”


All right, who’s pumped?! Here’s to writing/”writing” some great books!

  1. ceciliamaria says:

    Me! I’m pumped!!!

    That last quote especially hit home. 🙂

    It’s the same with dance… an actual performance is a small fraction of time compared to the hours of training and practice dedicated to the performance. It can be grueling, but I kind of like that part…

  2. Yes! I love how you apply my thoughts on writing to dance. This is another great analogy!

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