As I mentioned in my post on The First Draft, my writing style is to edit as I go - so that churning out that first completed work is a meticulous process. So I took comfort in Staw's assertion that she used to get stuck there too: "reviewing over and over again those first words, rearranging them, substituting alternatives, striking them, rearranging them yet again and again..."
But Staw has come to terms with her perfectionist approach. She accepts her desire to revamp each sentence while moving through to completion. For me, staving off the need to revise before it's revision time is like resisting a bar of chocolate before dinner. You acknowledge the craving, and you keep cooking dinner.
In her "Try This" exercises that end each chapter, she offers the following advice [my abridged version] for combating those critical voices:
- As you write... keep a record of what they say. (Quote in the body of the text or in a notebook.)
- Try to identify each voice and the role he or she played in your life.
- Ask yourself questions like, "Is the voice of my sixth-grade teacher relevant to me today?"
- Respond to their criticisms with something like: "Mr. Diver, I really don't think I need your help anymore. You taught me a lot about history when I was eleven years old. But my dissertation has nothing to do with history or with me as an elementary school student."
Who do your critical voices belong to? How have you addressed them so you can continue on?