Editing Fatigue

I don’t have the statistics on this, so I don’t know what the hell I’m writing about. What’s new? many ask. Yeah, thanks.

I believe I have a case of editing fatigue. I’m experiencing these symptoms:

  • General malaise
  • Boredom with my novel
  • A lack of will to keep editing
  • The urge to write something else

My first anxiety upon experiencing that today was that I’d written a boring book. The book could be boring, no doubt. But I believe I suffer more from almost continuous exposure for almost a year. Such exposure can cause malaise and boredom. Even people seeing naked people for a year can become bored with them, if they’re the same naked people.*

I believe that two hundred pages into the editing and revising process has inured me to the novel’s charms. When I began editing, I was excited about it. First, hurrah, a first draft was finished! Second, I saw editing as a chance to shape raw material. Still true, these points, but the chapters I’m editing and revising have been subjected to editing, revising and polishing for several months. That’s part of my process. Naturally, those sections that are older have gone through the process more often.

What do I do about it?

Which is more important, to know and acknowledge a problem, or to do something about it? I assign equality to them. Being blind to the problem, I can’t fix it. If I don’t fix it, the problem will continue.

Of course, in this sense, I don’t see it as a problem to be ‘fixed’ as it is more something that must be endured. Putting it into the context of my life, I have a demonstrated tendency to go through these periods. It helps to know myself.

Knowing myself helps me understand that this is temporary and that I’m not as doomed as the Titanic. It helps me regain balance and momentum, and address the issue from emotional, intellectual and physical aspects.

So the first thing to do….

  • Have some coffee
  • Sit
  • Think
  • Read
  • Write

Being who I am and old enough to understand with some degree of reliability in this matter, I had a cup of coffee, sat down, and thought about what I was thinking. Knowing that I can be trapped in my own thoughts and victimize myself by making it seem worse than it is, I researched the subject, looking for confirmation that I’m not alone, and that I’m not the first to endure this. I also read about what others did to cope with it, looking for anything new and different that might help me.

I don’t specifically find articles on editing fatigue, but on writing fatigue. To broaden thoughts about all this, I read about medical fatigue and material fatigue. It’s striking to me that it’s actually more like material fatigue that I experience. Expanding my thinking, I hunt for articles on burn out.

And then, because I am me, I write about it to help me explore and understand what I think about it.

Others’ Suggestions

Others experiencing this commonly suggest, “Take a break.” Yes, that seems like a logical and natural reaction. That’s what I want to do. But again, being me, I have that whole absurd guilt about taking breaks. Taking a break seems like a violation of the Writing Code — Thou shall write, edit, revise and work continuously until the blooding thing is done, or the Writing Gods shall curse your book — so I struggle with it.

I’m afflicted by this in everything I do. Once I start a project, I want to go until a ceasefire is declared, and I’m given permission to stop. But again, logically and emotionally, through experience, I know that taking a break is beneficial. The benefits include renewed energy and dedication, and often even new insights into what’s going on with myself and the process I’m engaging.

Reading about occupational burn-out provides me more powerful understanding of what I’m enduring. I’d suspected that some of the problems with the editing and revising process versus the creative writing process is that I’m addicted to creative writing. Creative writing engages me in multiple ways, and is rewarding. I can create and enjoy the results.

Editing and revising is more about improving existing material. While I can enjoy the results, there are often pages with few or no changes. No changes, no work engagement, no satisfaction with a job well done.

Is that your final answer?

My final answer is that I will take one or two days off from editing and revising, and instead address other areas of the novel to be, and also take the time to address other languishing areas in my writing career.

I’m not worried about setting a specific amount of time. I know that I’ll return to it. Just giving myself permission to take a break, I feel relief, and can feel my internal stores begin to replenish. I’ll go read for pleasure; as a writer, reading stimulates my writing inclination. I just need to ensure I channel my energy into editing and revising the current N.I.P. and not allow myself to wander into a new project.

So what about you?

Hey writers, do you feel any of these symptoms? How do you cope?

I really want to know.


*Regarding looking at naked people. I’m sure there are some who can gaze upon naked others without break and remain eager for it every minute, hour and day, ad nauseam. I also suspect that the subject of such watching might affect results, along with the age of the naked watcher.

So, your results may vary.


9 thoughts on “Editing Fatigue

Add yours

  1. There are only so many decisions any person can make in a day. It varies from person to person, and also according to factors such as stress, etc., but the truth is, once you hit your limit, you’re going to find it next to impossible to make ANY decisions, much less any important ones.

    Editing means making A LOT of decisions: Do I like this word to describe my protagonist’s emotions right now, or is there a better one? Which of these other options is beast? Is the pacing of this scene right for what I want it to achieve, or should I speed it up/slow it down? Am I info-dumping in this paragraph, or should I give MORE detail?

    I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “Work smarter, not harder.” Why spend the time and effort to “edit” when you’re worn out and not really capable of making sound decisions of any sort, only to have to go back and do it over again once your brain is rested and ready for more decision-making, when you can just do something else while waiting for the reset?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Your comment echoes advice I used to give to my team, but also to advice encountered at various sites. One point that I don’t appreciate sufficiently that you refuse is the decision factor, and the need to shift focus to address those questions raised. Even while reading at a leisure level, we’re operating on the editing and writing levels. Some changes aren’t made but sometimes sentences, paragraphs and scenes are read again, to be thought about more. While the conclusion dictates no changes for the moment, it does create fatigue.

      I appreciate your insights. Thank you.


  2. I am learning to edit and write at the same time.

    Meaning, I am adding new words to a current unfinished WIP, and going back and editing a different WIP.

    I am struggling with this process, yes, but it does seem to reduce fatigue as I find them to be two separate skill sets.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I try to edit as I go, but that’s got its own problems. I sometimes lose my train of thought because I’m trying to get the previous things just right. I’m not a novelist (my hat’s of to everyone who is), but I imagine the problems are similar.

    I try to make a point of listening to myself. There’s a difference between “not wanting to {write/edit/whatever} and “not being able to;” they feel different to me. If I need a break from it, I listen. It’s almost as much a part of my writing discipline, the code, as you say, as the writing itself. If the writing has become counterproductive, I walk away. Knowing it’s time to do that is accomplishment enough sometimes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I edit as I go, too. So this is an ‘everything is done’ final before engaging a copy editor. Why? My nature.

      Listening to myself is critical, and learning the difference between the voices, and then seeking the reason for the voice. You’re right; knowing when to walk away can be its own accomplishment.

      You provided a lot to mull. Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

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