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Write more, think less, fire my editor

Reflecting on 3 years of Vocal and those that are yet to come

By J. R. LowePublished 5 months ago Updated 5 months ago 4 min read
Top Story - January 2024
Write more, think less, fire my editor
Photo by Carlos Alberto Gómez Iñiguez on Unsplash

It's funny to think that the first article I ever wrote on Vocal was about setting goals and New Year's resolutions, and here I am, 3 years and 108 stories later, writing one again. That first article, as much as I'd genuinely liked it when it was first published, is garbage. I'd rather read the instruction manual for my lawnmower, cover to cover and in all of the languages, than read that piece again.

Ok, it's not quite that boring, but it's not great.

I keep it there though as a reminder of how far I've come. Three years of publishing stories is a long time, and I've learned a hell of a lot. Yet, I can't help but think I could have learned even more if I'd been a little less OCD with the work I published. Even that crappy first article took me several hours to write, with lots of deleting, re-writing and editing before I eventually put it out there. So many wasted hours to produce a single, mediocre piece.

Don't worry, this isn't just several paragraphs of meaningless self-deprecation - I'm getting to the point I promise.

So, I had to ask myself - if, in a few years, I'm probably going to look back on what I'm writing today and think "Hmm, that could have been written much more nicely if only I'd done XYZ" then why should I obsess over the tiny details when I'm writing in the moment? Why not publish more work and get more practice so I can get more skilled?

Don't get me wrong, editing and critiquing your own work is a fantastic way to improve yourself, but as with anything, there's a balance to be found. In this case, it's a balance between publishing too much and not editing enough, and publishing too little and getting stuck in the editing stage, and I tend to drift towards the latter. No, I tend to hurdle myself, head-first with the delete key at my fingertip, towards the latter.

So, how do I fix this?

You probably noticed that I mentioned firing my editor in the title. But don't worry - no one is losing their job. In fact, I don't even technically have an editor. Allow me to explain.

As a self-publishing (sort of) writer, every time I create a new piece I take on two roles:

1. The Author

2. The Editor

The Author is the dreamer, the ideas guy so to say. He dreams up entire universes, empathises with his characters, sketches out plans and crafts the stories I write.

The Editor is an absolute [redacted]. He's the quality control guy and he hates 99% of what The Author writes. Whether it's the characters, the grammar, or entire storylines, The Editor always has something negative to say, and if he doesn't think a story is perfect, it's not getting published. Sometimes, they don't even get written, and are stunted at the 'dot points and ideas' stage.

Now, both of these roles are important in their own way. You can't write anything without The Author, but you also can't publish decent work without having at least a little bit of input from The Editor to make it legible. But as I said already, balance is important.

I've let The Editor take the reigns for the past three years, and sure, I still managed to publish 108 stories on Vocal. But looking back on them, the majority of them were not worth the hours of editing and re-writing it took to get them published. In fact, many of the stories I wrote didn't even make it that far, and I have an accumulating list of unfinished stories in my Vocal Drafts because The Editor said "No".

I call this my Vocal Graveyard. The place where I bury my unpublished drafts - may they rest in peace.

People always say "Quality over quantity" but the irony is that you can't really improve quality without a certain quantity of work. You kind of need both. So here's the solution I propose.

If my goal for publishing on Vocal is to improve my writing and keep track of my progress, then that means (assuming I achieve my goal), no matter how perfect I think my writing is today, I'm going to think it's kind of terrible in a few years time when I look back on it... right? And by that logic, there's really no need to let The Editor have so much control over my work, since he will inevitably hate it in a few years time anyway. Sorry, buddy, you're fired!

It's a hard truth to accept, so here's a meme I made to make myself feel better about it

Ok, maybe 'fired' wasn't the right word to use - I'm supposed to be aiming for balance here after all. Maybe 'demoted' is a more reasonable way of putting it. I'm taking the reigns back from that perfection-focussed Editor that's holding me back and giving just a little more power to that poor, over-worked and under-appreciated Author.

I'm restructuring the workplace, so to speak.

And that's it really. That's my goal for Vocal - I want to write a little more without overthinking every piece. I want to promote The Author, give him the greenlight, and give just a little less power to The Editor (that power hungry [redacted]). And if he doesn't like that, well, maybe I will actually have to fire him. But for now, he's been given a warning.

No longer shall he be sending my stories to The Graveyard. No, they'll each get their time to shine (or not) post-publication. They might not be perfect, in fact I know they won't be, but each of them, in some shape or form, will be better than the last, even if just by a little bit.

And I know, in a few years time, I'm going to look back on this story in particular with a smile as I remember 2024 - the year I told my Editor to go [redacted] himself.

But until then, The Author has got some stories to publish.


About the Creator

J. R. Lowe

By day, I'm a PhD student, by night.... I'm still a PhD student, but sometimes I procrastinate by writing on Vocal. Based in Australia.

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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Comments (39)

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  • Ava Mack4 months ago

    This was so great, J.R.! Laughed out loud SEVERAL times. Extremely relatable and looking forward to reading more from you!

  • Marguerite Brown4 months ago

    Thx so much JR. Looking ahead to the journey.

  • Marguerite Brown4 months ago

    I could so relate to your story. Especially the dreaded editor part. Guilty as charged. Editing has been my forever enemy but I slayed that dragon this morning by submitting my first story 24 hours after joining Vocal. I look forward to reading more of your stories.

  • Donna Fox (HKB)4 months ago

    JR this was such a relatable and amazing read! I love the humour you used during those moments of self reflection as a way to lighten the mood and keep the reader engaged! This was so well thought out, written and executed! Great work and congrats on Top Story!

  • Oneg In The Arctic4 months ago

    I really enjoyed reading this, and the humor you injected so effortlessly as well! "The Editor is an absolute [redacted]" this part was so funny, I don't even know why it got me. I wish the Editor in me had more of the reigns sometimes...

  • Lana V Lynx4 months ago

    With so many achievements in the form of won challenges, runner-ups and Top Stories, I think you are a little too harsh on yourself. Your writing is fine, and that editor in you just needs to relax and take a break.

  • Ace Melee4 months ago

    Thank you for sharing your article. Since I am planning to self-publish (off Vocal) in the future, I don't want an editor or reviewer to just toss it away. I prefer to edit myself. Sometimes, you can edit your work while keeping your say and voice. Congratulations on Top Story!

  • Nice article some really good insights

  • Manisha Dhalani4 months ago

    I love this! I need to reconsider my relationship with the editor in my mind, too. Congrats on top story!

  • All of our editors sound similar. Congrats on the top story.

  • Naomi Gold4 months ago

    First of all, I have missed your writing so much. It is great to see you back. Secondly, I’m a very prolific writer because I fired my inner critic years ago. I check for grammar and spelling mistakes, and parts where the story doesn’t flow (whether I’m writing fiction or nonfiction, it must tell a story). But I could practically do that in my sleep, because I’m so well read. I don’t need that harsh voice judging my writing. It’s not helpful. I truly believe the people who can’t “fire their editor” as you put it become so creatively blocked that they resent other artists. They become professional critics or armchair critics—or teachers who break the spirits of their students in courses and workshops. I don’t think you could ever go down that path. You have the right idea here, and I’m excited for you to embrace that freedom of expression.

  • Some excellent observations and ideas

  • Grz Colm5 months ago

    I wanted to pick out my favourite part, ya know, to get ready for comments, but then it ALL ended up being funny J.R! 😁 This is very relatable. We are our most harshest critic.. this will surely be one of my goals now too! Excellent and actually helpful piece. ☺️👍

  • Novel Allen5 months ago

    I arrived at the graveyard phrase many stories back. I see many writers since arriving at that stage. Most of us start out wonky, but with sticktoitiveness we get better. Love your frankness, best of luck. Kudos on TS.

  • Mariann Carroll5 months ago

    I love this article and the message. If become our worst critic will never get a story out there . Congratulations on Top Story !!!

  • Blessings to you & best wishes with your goals for this year. Good luck with it. If you're anything like me (OCD) it will be tough.

  • Test5 months ago

    Exceptional effort! Keep up the remarkable work—congratulations!

  • Caroline Craven5 months ago

    Ha! This is so true. I have a folder of work, that’ll (prob) never see the light of day! Great piece!

  • Kendall Defoe 5 months ago

    A lot of painful truths here (is that a tautology?). We need to dream as writers and live as editors... And the world can go redact itself... ;)

  • tarun bhatt5 months ago

    Publishing an average story is better than a great one - so true

  • Brin J.5 months ago

    So what I'm hearing is we all need to fire our editors and find new ones. Lol. (Though how likely are we to do that?) I love your entry to the challenge. Hits all the same problems I've been having. As the saying goes, 'we're our worst critics' and I think I might adopt your resolution this year lol.

  • Dana Crandell5 months ago

    I had no idea we were using the same editor. Congratulations on a very enjoyable Top Story!

  • L.C. Schäfer5 months ago

    That editor, though. What an a-hole he is, right? SUCH a killjoy. I have the same problem with mine 😁 I think of it like those wise chaps say about enlightment and laundry. You get the fun frolicking and euphoric frenzy... but you gotta wash the mess off the sheets after. Gotta have both.

  • JBaz5 months ago

    Good luck, somehow that Editor always manages to poke their nose onto your work. Congratulations

  • Caroline Jane5 months ago

    Lovely to see you here Josh! I missed you. Good luck for 2024 and congratulations on the top story!

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