Unfortunately, you can’t be a writer without doing some amount of editing. Even if you decide to hire developmental, copy, and line editors, you are still going to be a part of the process. Unless you hire a ghost writer, you are going to edit at some point or another.
Editing isn’t terrible. It’s not. When you get deep down in the trenches though, it does have the power to drive you insane. There are two reasons why editing can drive me insane. One, editing is not a creative outlet. Two, editing can be tedious, exhausting, and a drain on your self-confidence.
ONE – Find other creative outlets
Work on another writing project. If you can skillfully portion out your time without switching focus to the new project, then go for it. Take it as slow as you can with the new piece, mentally developing your characters, settings, and plot while you’re doing other things like cooking, showering, or cleaning. That way, your mind is distracted and having fun, and you aren’t devoting your pen and ink or computer and keyboard time to NOT editing.
Work on another artistic project. Paint, sew, bake, draw, knit, sculpt, color with crayons in a coloring book, whatever works for you as an outlet that won’t frustrate you more or take too much time away from editing.
TWO – Take a break/distract yourself
Read a book. Give yourself a daily limit so that you don’t accidentally (intentionally) spend all of your time rushing to the end of the exciting story that you selected.
Get outside. Take a walk. Go for a bike ride. Sitting is fine, but you might as well get some exercise while you aren’t doing anything. And that is the point of this one. DON’T do anything. Let your mind travel to wherever it wants to go, either coming up with ways to improve the story that you are editing or coming up with new story ideas like mentioned above.
Listen to music. The great thing about this one is that it can be done while you’re editing. If you are line editing or proofreading, then definitely select something without lyrics. I’ve caught myself typing random words into the middle of my sentences so many times because of the lyrics that I was listening to that I don’t usually listen to music anymore while I write. If I do, I listen to something chill that won’t distract me or classical music. Check out Emma Louise as a good example in the chill vein, and check of this blog about How to Actually Enjoy Classical Music if you’ve always hated classical but might want to give it a try.
Exercise. If you are as committed to writing and editing as I am, then you know about finger, wrist, leg, neck, and back cramps/aches from sitting in front of your computer all day, not to mention eye strain headaches. Exercise will give you happy endorphins, a better night of rest, and probably make you feel a little bit better about yourself for not being a total bump on a log.
Talk with encouragers about your writing. You know who your encouragers are: family, friends, your partner. Whether talking about the thing that you are editing or an entirely different writing project, talking about your writing with someone who can be uplifting and encouraging is a great way to remind yourself that you are a good writer. This one is for that nagging feeling of self-doubt that you get in your gut from the astonishing number of typos and oddly worded sentences that you find in the monstrosity that you are editing. Form what Ive scene in my own work, it cann be bad.
I think the most important thing is to not let yourself get overwhelmed with your editing project and give up. It might be slow and painful at times, but it will be incredibly gratifying in the end when you finish it.
How do you keep yourself from going insane while editing? Let me know in the comments below!