Freeing the Inner Writer

I’m finding it very difficult to get back into writing mode now that vacation is over. It’s really much like getting back into running or anything else, though. I just need to do it a little bit at a time and focus on the process and not on how good or bad the writing is.

I’m working on an article for an academic journal, but I’m really not happy with what I’m doing. The draft I’m writing is mostly crap notes right now, but I know that’s part of the process. Writing never gets easier, and even if it did, I just keep setting the bar a bit higher each time so it’s always an effort. But at the start of every project there’s always a kind of mental squirming and fear that the writing is not good enough.

The key is to just keep on writing and push through these difficult patches. The problem is making up excuses not to write (not to exercise, not to eat right). You know what it really is? Perfectionism. Fear of not being perfect.

It reminds me of a kid in elementary school who would write his name on his paper and if it looked sloppy he’d ball up the entire sheet and throw it away. I guess he went through about six or seven sheets of paper before he even did any homework. He let perfectionism stall out his efforts instead of continuing to work.

Counteracting perfectionism is essential to moving forward. In college I took an art studio class and the first thing the instructor had us do was draw a big, ugly line across our drawing tablets. It instantly eliminated the blank-page syndrome (hey, this sheet of paper is already messed up!) and freed us to create art. Throwing words on the page, whether they’re good or not, frees writers from the awful whiteness of a clean sheet of paper or a word processor screen. That, and a healthy word-count goal, are the methods behind National Novel Writing Month.

This year I’m going to be collaborating on a historical novel that’s already in progress. Our idea is to use NaNo to power through finishing the draft. I’d also like to finish editing my 2011 NaNo novel, which is about 2/3 done. It is getting better; it just keeps getting put aside for other projects, such as my master’s thesis. Time to pick up the pen, saddle up at the keyboard, and get writing.