This past Spring, I adopted an editor for my business non-fiction writing. She is absolutely splendid! She’s gentle and supportive every step of the way. If someone hasn’t created it already, I think I start a movement called, ‘Adopt an Editor’ day!
So, this quote by Stephen King is timely.
Stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard either emotionally or imaginatively is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it & sometimes when you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing to do is shovelling shit from a sitting position. ~Stephen King
I was going thru this experience with my editor the other day. Throughout the session, she would ask me questions and I would get queasy. Anxiety would build because I wasn’t sure I knew the answer to her question. “I should know the answer, I’m the subject matter expert, dammit!” I’d say to myself.
Her next response would be, “You shouldn’t should all over yourself!”
I’ve been that person who shoulds all over the place. I didn’t know it. I made quiet enemies throughout my life as a persistor and didn’t realize how abrasive this personality quirk could be. Now that I know more about myself through the Kahler Process Communications Model, I can reign back that awful propensity to tell others what to do.
Ugh. I feel terrible.
Meanwhile, her questions continued over the phone and I’d pause. I’d pause for two reasons:
1) My brain is on a permanent 5-second delay because I need to organize my scattered thoughts that bounce around like a junk drawer on a trampoline, and
2) I began to feel the anxiety well up and I’d immediately start to choke.
So, I’d throw out a word -any word- just to get my response started. Much like the throttle on my new electric bike that gets my bike moving. I love the throttle so much because it propels me forward without having to use my peddles the old fashion way. The throttle is the coolest thing.
Because I’m only 5’2″, my feet barely touch the ground on my new Blix bike. While I’m able to reach the ground w/my toes, I’m not necessarily stable. So, as I sit on my ebike waiting at a traffic light, it takes me 3 seconds to get upright and moving forward when it changes. I feel like a little kid trying to climb onto her big brother’s bike. This can be problematic if I’m surrounded by pedestrians at a crosswalk. I don’t want to appear incompetent and risk running into them. And I really don’t feel like getting off my bike. As my feet dangle beside me, I gently hit the throttle to move me adeptly through the crowd.
So, the moment my word choice moves me forward, I feel confident that I can traverse through my personal thesaurus just as I did the crowd crossing the street. But I feel my anxiety begin to creep up the back of my neck. It makes me hesitate.
Each time, I feel vulnerable and exposed. Not good enough.
But why the anxiety?
Moving through the crap stage is agonizing.
A number of years back I talk about how you can push through the crap gap in Practice Makes Voice. Through discovery, theory, and practice, you engulf yourself with the passion you find alluring. Whether it’s picking up a musical instrument or creative writing, you know you want to do it.
And you want to be good.
Not just play the guitar on your back porch good. But good enough to think that perhaps you could play in a small band and not embarrass yourself terribly. For me, turning a phrase is a challenge and I’m constantly finding myself moving through the crap stage at every turn.
Why do I feel insecure talking with my editor?
I think it boils down to clarity. She needs clarity to help edit my book. She needs to be able to do her job and she can’t if she’s unclear about the message I’m presenting in each section. Gaaaaaah!
I was beating myself up internally because I wasn’t clear about my chapter structure, the intros into sub sections, or simple continuity. I pride myself on being clear. But now as we walk through each chapter, word by word, I realize that my writing was inconsistent. Insert imploding heart here.
This is the part where I felt incompetent. But I’m not alone. I’m reminded that even JK Rowling has a team of editors and beta readers.
When I feel incompetent, I overthink. When I overthink, I stall. And she can hear it -over the phone!
As I learn to control my ums and ahs, I chose words with a certain amount of hardship. Each sentence I utter, my editor coaches me with profound support. This I need. She continues to tell me the things I need to hear to push forward. Every.single.time.
Before I knew it, the exercise that seemed like a trial was finished. And not finished like I fell into a pool of blue goo on Nickelodeon, finished. Done like an American Ninja Warrior moving from one hard section to another, swinging from the monkey bars onto the platform done!
And I felt… victorious!! 😀
My last note is a motivating video by Mel Robbins on overthinking. Mel is the author of the 5-second rule. It may help you, too. I have a nasty habit of overthinking and stalling. Stalling gets me nowhere fast. Mel’s advice in this video has helped me push through the stalling each time I feel paralyzed in overthinking.
I hope it helps you, too.
Do you overthink? How do you overcome it? Please share in the comments below.