Editing Roller-Coaster

I’m a logical sort of gal. I don’t like accepting anything ‘just because’. I like to get to the bottom of things – the real reason, the cause, the fault. Why? So I can fix it. I’m like this with writing ups and downs. I’m currently wrangling with the 3rd and final-ish draft of a mid-grade adventure novel and day to day my mood varies widely.

Some days I’m up. I’m positively joyful, loving editing, believing in the story, adoring the characters, daydreaming about this being the next Harry Potter (ok, so I’m never THAT up). I feel like a writer. I feel good at what I do. I feel worthy and productive and like I could do this for the rest of my life.

Other days I’m down. And the downs get pretty deep. I wonder why I’m writing this story when the plot is banal, the characters cliched and the writing woefully unsalvageable. I wonder how on earth I got through two previous drafts without abandoning ship. I daydream about other professions – so when I’m found to be the fraud of a ‘writer’ I am I can make a silent exit. I consider changing my name and skipping town.

The Sherlock in me wants to know the cause of these ups and downs. ‘It’s just a writer thing’ is never enough. So I go through all the possible whys for getting down. It was a chapter that needed more work, so it challenged me more. I got a rejection that day. I had lots of other stressful things on my mind which were the real cause. I needed a day off. I’ve had another story circling my mind, so I couldn’t get into the voice of this one. I had too many e-mails demanding my attention. I had someone asking to see the ms and was feeling the pressure.

So many possible reasons. And you know the conclusion I’ve come to? It’s just a writer thing. Ha (see the humour? Me neither). There’s something about working in creative industries that lead to more self-doubt and ups and downs than other jobs. It’s just the way it is. And although there really are lots of reasons for this, I don’t think there’s a way to fix it. Even in ideal conditions I still get down days. So what can you do?

  1. Accept it: day to day ups and downs are mostly out of your control
  2. Embrace it: gotta love yourself, foibles and all
  3. Give yourself a break: don’t sweat it too much. If it’s a particularly heinous day, take some time off
  4. Bake: scones and cookies will cure what ails you

Sorry. I think that was self therapy more than blogging. If you managed to stick with me to the end then feel free to add your own solutions for dealing with the downs. By the way, is anyone quite as amused by the WordPress snow as I am? Ah, Christmassy happiness.

12 Responses to “Editing Roller-Coaster”

  1. 1 Lynn Priestley December 7, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    Oh, Sister – I hear you! The downs seems to be more prevalent than the ups for me. And the downs come when I lose the enjoyment of writing for me. When I am worrying about what other people might think, I want to slink off and pretend I never started. But when I write purely for the joy of finding out what is going to happen next(relating to your Sherlock example and wanting to fix things for my characters) then joy leads me from one page to the next.

    It is just a writer thing, I think. And I think part of it is because writers splay themselves open to the the public when they create and arrange words on white paper. And whilst I sometimes think I am a fraud for doing so, I also think I am brave. All writers are brave. They are the only ones with the courage to put it out there and that’s something that shows me the true up side of writing.

    I think we must never assume that what we put out there is incapable of changing or touching someone, somehow. Writers change people’s lives every day. Mostly without even knowing. Each one is unique in their own way – just like snowflakes – no two are the same. But all of them are brave. Keep putting it out there, brave woman.

  2. 2 Lynn Ward December 7, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    Hi Katherine,
    I too am enamoured of your snow :) My blog is on blogspot and they haven’t given me any precipitation whatsoever – I feel rather cheated :)
    I agree with Lynn P- to be a writer one has to be brave, we are putting ourselves out there whenever a piece of our work is published, be it in book form, magazines, internet, or wherever. But without ‘putting it out there’ I feel a little cheated somehow. I know many people say they write for themselves, for the love of it ( and I do that too ) but I have to admit that I crave the acceptance, and I long for positive reactions to my work. I love your blog and have added it to my favourites on my blog.

  3. 3 Katherine Battersby December 7, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    Thanks Lynn P. I almost had a little teary at your beautiful words, but it’s a good day today so I held them at bay :)

    Lynn W, I know exactly what you mean about ‘why’ you write. I think to be a published writer you need a bit of both. You have to be driven to write for yourself – for the joy of it and because it’s who you are, so you’ll keep going no matter what. But you also have to write with a desire to have your words out there – so you’ll go at it with dogged determination and chase every opportunity. And thanks for your kind words – I’ll add your blog to my list, too.

  4. 4 kathleen noud December 7, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    A rejection when you’re already down is the worst :(

    For me, writing is a very emotional practice (just as much as acting was) and it’s not a work task that I can shut off at 5pm and forget about until the next day. It’s become part of who I am.

    So yeah, that means the highs are high and the lows are low. It means (no matter what people try to tell you) that every reaction to my work is very personal to me, whether that’s a confidence boost or a confidence killer.

    I can’t say that I bake my way through it (what? cooking?) but I talk my way through it with my friends and my writer’s group. (A good sook to them goes a long way.) Sometimes exercise really helps to put my mood and my writing in to perspective as well.

    I’ve also been giving myself a lot of breaks with a project of mine and turning to another one. Sometimes stepping away from a project for a few weeks or more is better progress than forcing my way through another draft or another edit.


  5. 5 deescribewriting December 8, 2009 at 5:58 am


    I totally understand where you are coming from. When I was on edit number….well it could have been about 15 of Letters to Leonardo, I decided that it was a really boring book that nobody would read and if they did, it would probably bring on the yawns and be one of those bedside books that people tell you they are ‘wading through but wonder if they will ever finish’. There were a few bits I still liked, but I was struck by a complete crisis of confidence.

    Fortunately, my lovely and all-knowing editor advised me that this was a perfectly common scenario, and that once I held my published book in my hand, I would love it all over again. She was right…and I did.

    I think that giving yourself a break…and cooking something yummy are really good tips – then of course, there is always chocolate:-)

    P.S. – I too, love your snow.


  6. 6 Katherine Battersby December 8, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    Kathleen, I think you have to feel emotions strongly to be able to write with heart, and you’re right – that’s not something you can turn on and off. So I suppose we just have to learnt to live with the ups and downs. And of course I meant cooking! You can’t tell me that fresh baked cookies don’t make you happy? I also use exercise, too.

    Oh Dee, I so recognise that feeling. It’s always nice to know you’re not the only one. Thank goodness your editor was there to push you forwards!

  7. 7 Karen Tyrrell December 8, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    Hi Katherine, I have down days too with the editing and self belief pays a HUGE part. When I think I can do it, I JOLLY WELL CAN. And when I think I can’t, THAT’S THE PROOF. All we can do as writers is to encourage each other … Best wishes. Karen :))

  8. 8 Katherine Battersby December 14, 2009 at 11:51 am

    I find the lagging self-belief is the toughest part, Karen. Especially when we’re the ones in the end who have to champion our own work. But that’s why, as you say, we spend time with other creatives who will believe in us even when we’re struggling!

  9. 9 Sheryl Gwyther December 21, 2009 at 7:28 am

    How did I miss this post, Kath? Lovely one and never a truer word was said.
    Hope you’re in an UP-time at the moment…
    re the snow – I thought there was something wrong with WordPress for a moment or something seriously wrong with my eyes with the floating objects. :)

  10. 10 Katherine Battersby December 21, 2009 at 11:12 am

    Not quite UP yet Sheryl – I really need to start a new project. I feel like I’ve been editing all year and I’m losing energy for writing because of it. But the new year brings with it fresh projects aplenty – can’t wait!

  11. 11 Donna December 21, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    Hi Katherine,
    What a great post and how very true. I too, know those days you speak of with so much passion. Cookies and exercise always help, but don’t dismiss that lovely glass of red when you complete the ms. That is a nice reward in itself.
    Sometimes the ‘down’ days can result from the isolation that writers tend to expereince, abit like becoming a hermit! LOL
    Tomorrow brings so many new opportunities!

    Merry Christmas

  12. 12 Katherine Battersby December 23, 2009 at 10:20 am

    Donna – that’s a great point about the isolation factor. I know bad days come more frequently for me if it’s been a while since I’ve caught up with my writing group. There’s nothing quite like being around other writers.

    Wine can also help! I love a good Riesling myself…

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About this Blog…

A blog of ramblings about the world of writing and illustrating for children, by an author / illustrator who might just have a thing for rabbits.

Katherine's picture books, 'Squish Rabbit' and 'Brave Squish Rabbit', are out with Viking (Penguin, US) and UQP (Australia). Please e-mail if you would like her to blog about something in particular.

All text & images  Katherine Battersby

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