Turns out editing a novel that you thought/hoped was done is a complete pain in the ass. What's even more irritating is that the criticism I got from my second opinion was absolutely correct. Now that I see the mistakes that I've made I can't believe I missed them! I'm not kicking myself too much though, I am still reminding myself that this is my first ever novel and mistakes are allowed... but still. Now all artists are their own worst critics, we all know this. When I used to record albums I would tear them to pieces before I let anyone else hear them and to this day I still finish most of my paintings and I'm not overly fond of them. It's only once I've had a break from the work that I can then go back and see whether I like it or not. It's normal! When it's your own work you only ever look at it technically but when it's someone else's you're able to see the beauty in it straight away. For the most part that inner criticism is actually a good thing. It helps you to improve your work and keeps you moving forward to try new things. It also forces you out of your own little world to connect with other creatives and learn. However, there is a point when that criticism becomes a whole separate beast. When it actually stops you in your tracks and creatively immobilises you, that's when you need to step back.
I've done this so often that I have it down to it's own art form and my only saving grace is that I am multi passionate. When I get to that special hysterical creative space over a poem or a piece of writing I simply put it down and pick up another project. I always think it's much more beneficial to work on a few things at once. An old teacher once told me that I was a jack of all trades, master of none. I thought she was a bit of a cow and also, wrong. It's because I invest in so many things at once that they more often than not come out the way I want them to. I am cautious about over working a piece or a discipline. I learned that a few years ago when I pushed my music so hard that I took myself to the point of mental and emotional exhaustion. I need balance. I need freedom within my work. Now I am still a perfectionist and I am still a work horse but I also know that criticising yourself into atrophy does not serve you in the long run. It takes you to a point where NOTHING you do is right and you eventually end up messing up your work or at the very worst irrevocably damaging it.
So take your time. Take breaks. Fresh eyes see fresh ideas. I took breaks between the first, second and third drafts of this novel. Who knows, there might be a fourth or fifth draft. I don't care how long it takes. I want to give my best work. I learned that years ago when I rushed a book I'd written and even now I cringe a little when I see it. Spelling mistakes, bad layout, bad illustrations... nightmare. So this time I take my time and I hope you can do the same. Whatever you are working on give it the credit of your peace. Give it your clearest mind and your freshest perspective. Now that I am editing this novel with fresh eyes I can see that it is already SO much stronger than the last draft. I am also starting another creative writing project this week so I don't get too “edit heavy” and I keep my creative thoughts going. If you learn to recognise that inner critic as a need for your mind to find a new space then maybe it wouldn't grow to such collosal levels. I know artists from my Uni course that were taught to criticise their work so much they have never drawn or painted again. I can empathise, I think most creatives can and it all goes back to balance. Create, take a break, go back to it when you're ready and be kind to yourself in the process.