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Editing Your Book Is Like Animal Crossing

Since I’m the absolute worst at updating this blog, I’ll start with an exciting update that I should’ve posted months ago:

I’ve signed with a publisher! The process has barely begun, but it’s official and I can now say that my book will be available to you in the future 🙂

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know this is a huge PTL.

As a not-so-exciting update, I’ve also been struggling severely with nauseating anxiety and insomnia. This is by no means unusual, but it’s been very… extra the last couple months. Sometimes it’s lying in bed, stuck in spirals of panic, until hours have passed before my feet even hit the floor. Sometimes it’s while doing something productive, minding my own business, when paranoia grabs a megaphone and asks, “Hey, remember that thing you were worried about an hour ago? Have you thought about it from this angle?”

All this to say, my combat plan has mainly consisted of prayer, discussions with my mentors and therapist, and of course, channeling my anxious energy into Animal Crossing.

(Ya know, that thing I get re-obsessed with every few months.)

Okay, I know that game’s old news by now and a lot of people have stopped playing. I thought I was one of them. But whenever you hear someone talk about how therapeutic it is, they’re not joking. I’ve been able to redirect my hyperfixation away from debilitating fear to something happy and creative.

An extra hundred hours of gameplay later, I’ve noticed some striking parallels between playing the game and editing my book.

All those times I thought my island decorating and Showroom houses were done and couldn’t get any better? Wrong. All those times I thought my manuscript was perfectly polished and didn’t need any more work? HA! Wrong.

(Five hundred thousand editing rounds later, I’m sure I’ll look at it again in a month or two and still feel the desperate need to make more revisions. Some might think it’s an annoying habit; I see it as a sign of continual growth.)

As I continue to read more books, I improve in writing and mental word-crafting, which then leads to more editing. As I look at more HHP houses from other people in the Showroom, I develop a better eye for those things and accumulate ideas based on inspiration. Which leads to changing my own displays. Again.

As soon as I send either my manuscript or Animal Crossing code to someone for viewing, I inevitably get a billion more ideas and recognize more flaws about three minutes later. I then proceed to lament the fact that I don’t have time traveling powers so that I could take back the old link and send them the ACTUAL one that’s WAY BETTER, I SWEAR.

Every time I return to either of these creations of mine with fresh eyes after a hiatus, I’ll come across parts that cause involuntary facial expressions and mental beratement. “What the heck were you thinking, past self? Writing a cheesy sentence like that? Cluttering that corner of the island with untamed flower chaos instead of actual items?”

The parallel I’ve seen in myself through my past creative decisions is that I can be sort of selective in my levels of effort. There were a couple chapters that I didn’t think too hard about because they felt less important. A few cheesy lines that I assumed readers wouldn’t pay much attention to. Some sections of my island that I didn’t know what to do with, which I just piled an unorganized mess of plants onto in hopes that visitors would just ignore them and focus on the pretty parts and Pokemon references.

Now, obviously the book stuff is far more important to take seriously, but the point is that I’m learning not to do that anymore. I’m challenging myself to take every bit of my work seriously. Every line. Every point. Readers will be paying attention and will notice when I get sloppy. I need to take out the fillers or fix them to make them more relevant. I need to be extremely mindful about the terminology I use and in the way I communicate points about sensitive topics. I also need to make sure it’s not boring (though that’s highly subjective, but still a good goal to strive for).

After lots of gameplay this month, I’ve fixed my island (I think), and after countless edits, I’m happy with my manuscript (again, I think. We’ll see what the editors say).

And in both cases, there will need to come a time where I decide that it’s good to go. I can’t edit forever, particularly with the book. I’ll eventually need to stop nitpicking and let it be whatever it needs to be to each person who picks it up.

Some readers will be like the island villagers who don't like the island anymore and want to move away. But others, hopefully overwhelmingly, will be happy residents who love the island and are grateful for the work I've done.

It may sound silly for me to take a video game so seriously in the first place, but there are benefits. Special interests can both bring us joy and teach us about ourselves if we let them.

Of course, I can’t end a post like this without shamelessly promoting the fruits of my labor. Come visit my new and improved island and Showroom if you wanna. There are lots of nerd references, including but not limited to: Persona, Pokemon, Naruto, and SpongeBob.

(Sidenote: my insomnia really is destroying me, with or without anxiety being a punk. Last summer my brain suddenly decided, “Hey, you know that whole sleep thing? Yeah, we’re not doing that anymore. No reason. Enjoy.” If you’re the praying type and could send some my way, I’d dig it. 👍)

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