I’m defining a new writing stage in my writing process. You know the general writing process and its stages: you come up with an idea, do the necessary research, you sketch it out, you outline, and maybe do some character sketches. Then what I do is sequester myself away from the outside world and write a first draft.
Once I finish that first draft I am elated. Hello world! I’ve released myself from my think hole (or whatever you nickname your office). I’ll do some shopping, clean up the house a bit, see some friends, do some reading, get some exercise…and that’s when it hits me. Writers Remorse. Every word on every page is utter shit! It makes no sense. The motivations are all wrong. The premise is not even comical. Doom, despair, agony on me. (okay, I stole that last part from Hee Haw. sorry) But you get my point.
Like buyers remorse, anxiety after making a purchase (mostly big purchases), my writers remorse causes anxiety driven behaviors too. And be careful in defining the behavior, it looks a lot like normal weekend behavior - like eating an entire family size bag of candy, or watching television for eight hours straight, or both at the same time. Power drinking or what some more negative people call “binge” drinking. And even more extreme behaviors like cleaning out the junk drawer or organizing the closets. I’ll admit once I even organized all my scarves according to color and length in a fit of writer’s remorse – that was bad but I pulled through. All the scarves are now haphazardly tossed in the wicker basket.
But how does one know if they are in the throws of writer’s remorse? If you are looking at your DVD collection and decide it needs to be alphabetized; “cleaning” your desk of used coffee cups, old drafts, and useful scraps of paper or what I call “purging the evidence”; if you decide to re-watch your entire Mary Tyler Moore collection. These are all typical signs you may be grappling with the remorse.
What is the healthy way to deal with writer’s remorse? I have come up with a plan and as it works for me, it’ll surely work for everyone else. Watch some movies – no, nothing thought provoking I’m talking the career stunting crap like Ishtar, Showgirls. Read some poorly written books such as Valley of the Dolls or a Twilight “wanna-be”. Talk to others about what pieces of crap they are. Then wash your hands a lot. Not like after every time you use the bathroom, I mean 7 times each time you are at a sink with Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint soap. With each scrubbing say to yourself “I am a good person. Nothing bad will happen to me.” Why 7 times and not 6 or 8? I’m glad you asked. Because the number 7 is the number of years a body takes to replenish its cells. Also because you can eat 7 chocolate chip cookies before you start getting that sick feeling in your tummy.
Once I come out of the writer’s remorse and shake off those crippling anxiety thoughts, the world does look brighter. I am able to face another draft, make necessary character changes, re-work some dialogue…do an entire re-write.