I started self-editing my manuscript this week. Armed with several reference books—including a dictionary, thesaurus, and The Chicago Manual of Style—and a checklist that I created based on advice gleaned from multiple resources, I am picking apart my work, sentence by sentence. The checklist is long, with suggestions varying from the simple (Are there any inconsistencies in names, descriptions, etc.?) to the complex (Do the characters develop and grow as a result of what they’ve experienced?). And the books explaining proper usage and grammar and punctuation are even longer, filled as they are with examples and exceptions.
I’ll admit it’s a bit overwhelming. So much so that it took me more than an hour on Monday to get through one page. ONE! And it was only a partial page at that. The problem was that, aside from the tedious task of editing, I was also battling a revolving voice of doubt and fear. It said, no matter how hard I try, no matter how many sentences I rewrite, the story will never be good enough. My writing will never be good enough. I will never be good enough.
Round and round I went, reading each sentence aloud while simultaneously contemplating ways to improve the structure and trying my best to quiet that inner critic. You know the one I mean? It’s that little niggle that sits quietly in the back of the mind until we take a step out of our comfort zone and do something to challenge ourselves. Then it pipes up, loud and clear, citing our past mistakes and failures as evidence that we can’t succeed or grow or achieve that goal. And if that doesn’t work, it tries another tactic, another myth dressed up in truth’s clothing: “If you can’t do it perfectly, then why do it at all?”
This voice has another name—it’s called Resistance—and its mere existence creates a constant internal battle and a severe drag on our time and energy. It is exhausting trying to prove ourselves to a naysayer that exists largely in our own minds and bases its arguments on past patterns rather than current fact. But that’s its game. That’s how it often wins.
As I struggled to edit my document, Resistance tempted me to quit. “You’ve abandoned this manuscript before,” it said. “Why not now? It would be so much easier to walk away.” I couldn’t disagree, because I had quit many times in the past and it would be easier to do so again now. But I didn’t. I know better now. I know that rather than giving in and giving up, all I had to do was Refocus that Resistance. Turn it on its head. Tell it that, yes, maybe my manuscript will never be perfect no matter how thoroughly I edit it—even after I submit it, there will likely still be misplaced commas and poorly chosen words—but that doesn’t make me a subpar storyteller or an incapable writer. It makes me human. It means that I am a work in progress just like my manuscript.
And so are you.
Imagine how much we could accomplish if we took all the precious energy that we waste trying to defend and protect ourselves against our enemies—both internal and external—and instead threw it into our goals. What if we didn’t give in every time Resistance reared its ugly head, but rather refocused those negatives into positives? What heights would we reach if we assumed victory instead of failure?
It is in our power to rewrite the narrative of our lives. To reform whatever has held us back in the past into something that will help us in the present. To reshape our view of progress. To remember that success and achievement are not synonymous with perfection. So get out there and go for it! Don’t worry if you backslide. Don’t worry if you stumble and fall because resistance trips you up. Get back on your feet, refocus, and remind yourself that this journey is about progress, not perfection. And progress is always possible if you are purposeful.
What Resistance are you currently facing? What can you do to refocus the negative into something positive?