On Writing: Take the Pressure Off

And now, a note on fear. This summer I had a writing question from an aspiring author struggling with a long-term project. Here’s what I had to say:

Let me tell you, I have unfinished, or unperfected manuscripts in my cabinet, too. It sounds like a lot of what might be plaguing you is perfectionism. And perfectionism really boils down to fear. Fear of not doing the work well enough so that it lives up to your vision of what it could or should be. But here’s the truth: no work that you ever write will fully and beautifully live up to the perfection vision of it before you get into the mucky mess of writing it. And no work will ever turn out exactly as you thought it would. It’s like raising kids.

Telling stories can feel like a massive burden (I have felt that). But it can and should be fun. Take the pressure off. You are building a roller coaster of a story for someone to yell “woohoo!” on—and you get to ride it first. Unlike a roller coaster, however, if it’s not perfectly constructed, no one will die. 🙂 You can fix, patch and rewire it at will until the day that you sell and let it go (and even then it can be hard to stop picking at something). Even then, it won’t be perfect or necessarily feel finished (mine never do). They’re just snapshots in time.

Consider this: YOU are created in the image of the most creative Being in the universe. A Being who created spiritual mankind… and then a bunch of weird little creatures like those that live at the bottom of the ocean and never see the filtered light of day. What purpose do they serve? Possibly none. Maybe God just liked making them. 🙂

You have my permission to take the pressure off of yourself. Go back to my #1 writing rule: write like no one will ever read this. Write it like secret stuff in your closet. Doing so removes not only the pressure, but the ego (which is intensely interested in protecting itself) and the fear.

And write some other stuff, too. Write some fun stuff. Silly stuff. Just because you can.

At the end of the day, people read for lots of different reasons, but most of it the time it comes down to two: entertainment/escape, and to not feel alone. So write for fun, and write honest and raw, so that others can say “yes, me too.”

  • Joyce Elliott
    Posted at 23:46h, 16 November Reply

    Thank you so much. You nailed it and it’s so hard to let go. It’s easy to get caught up in the messy life.

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    Posted at 19:45h, 02 November Reply

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  • Karen Lucille Gross
    Posted at 22:20h, 26 May Reply

    I have self published one short (150 page) novel. It started off as a short story for a contest that had a maximum word count of 750 words. I sent it to a writer friend to ask how to cut it down, and she told me that it wasn’t a short story, it was the first draft of a novel. So I decided to try. Turns out it was the first 3 chapters of a novel. I wrote 12 drafts before I decided to ditch the plot and wrote 5 or 6 revisions to connect the beginning to the ending. Do you think I might be a perfectionist? As soon as it was done I regretted the blurb on the back cover and the design of the front cover. I think I might do a rewrite and make it the first of a trilogy.

  • Aretha Grant
    Posted at 03:07h, 15 January Reply

    Thank you for this encouragement! I suspect that I keep starting new projects without pursuing publication of any of them because of fear. I want 2017 to be the year I’m actually published. It’s time to get serious about that goal.

  • Yaasha Moriah
    Posted at 18:25h, 18 November Reply

    Wow, I needed that. I’m in the throes of NaNoWriMo, I’ve got the flu, which is setting off my chronic illness symptoms, and my little Creative Gremlin is screaming, “But you need to write RIGHT NOW!” Sometimes, the pressure is counterproductive. Thank you for reminding me that this is really about joy. What is a gift if it is not enjoyed?

    Posted at 22:19h, 17 November Reply

    THANK YOU!! I really needed this encouragement to day! God bless you A WHOLE BUNCH!

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