Well, this is starting to be a series: Learn from Mark's mistakes. :)
Last night I was going along pretty well with my new short story. (I'll update the page count tab when I get back to the Throne of Writing(tm) tonight.) Then I came to a section where my protagonist slapped a female co-worker on the butt. And I immediately went into a dither of political correctness. I don't know why. I suspect I envisioned readers who might be offended by it or who I THOUGHT would be offended. But I went back and changed the line so he merely imagined spanking her.
As soon as I did that, my brain shut off. My subconscious said, basically, 'ok, fine. If you don't like what I'm coming up with, I'll go do something else. See ya.' And that was it. Everything I tried to write after changing that line came out crappy and strained.
What did I do?* I censored myself. I second-guessed my own instincts for what was appropriate for those two characters. I basically slapped my own creativity across the face. No wonder it slunk off.
The best (worst?) part is that after thinking about it and talking about it with my wife, I realized what I'd done and what I needed to do to fix it. (Her reaction and her next line of dialog put their relationship in perspective beautifully)
Look, I say a lot 'just write' but I sometime find it easier to know the answer than to do the answer. So, here's some more advice that hopefully I'll take myself: Don't censor your characters. Especially during the first draft. Let them be rude, slutty, drunken, violent, sarcastic...whatever is right for them. Those first impulses may not be pretty but they're real. And we want to create characters and situations that are real.
With Angel Odyssey, I workshopped the first few chapters to three different groups. Most of the women in them disliked the crudity of Jacob's brothers, the passivity of his mother and the casual violence of his father. I listened to their critiques instead of to my own voice of who and what they were. I softened their characters and weakened the story as a result. Now I have to go back and re-write from my second draft and hope I can recapture what I was trying to say.
Listen, these are your stories. Not anyone else's. And the one thing we have to sell that no one else is bringing to the market is ourselves. Our voice, our ideas, our unique, quirky and occasionally politically incorrect subconsious.
Don't censor your work. Let your editor do that. That's what he gets paid for. :)
*Apart from creating a character who sleeps with co-workers and gives them surprise spankings at work.