17 Nov 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.”