You have to allow yourself the liberty of writing poorly. You have to get the bulk of it done, and then you start to refine it. You have to put down less than marvelous material just to keep going to whatever you think the end is going to be -- which may be something else altogether by the time you get there.That's something I needed to hear this past weekend. Between work, school, and the responsibilities of fatherhood and husbandhood, my concentrated writing time has gotten reduced to a few hours every Saturday and Sunday. They're precious periods that often end up feeling oddly stressful because of their very scarcity. When the pump's a little dry, it's all too easy to spiral into cannibalistic internal monologues, telling yourself, "You really need to get this right if you're ever going to move on from this project," and, "You know, you should really be able focus a little more than that," and, "It could be that you aren't really cut out for this writing thing after all." Pure silliness, since such self talk not only wastes what time you have, it also relies on that least-objective of observers -- yourself. As Dilbert's Scott Adams notes, we are scarcely the best judges of our own aptitudes:
Any assessment of your own abilities is necessarily polluted by your optimism, your pessimism, your passion, and your everyday delusions. On top of that, you are influenced by other people's opinions of your abilities, and other people are just as clueless as you. ... In summary, the two opinions about your abilities that you should never trust are your own opinions, and the majority's opinions. But if a handful of people who have a good track record of identifying talent think you have something, you just might.Rather than seeking perfection from the get go, perhaps we ought to allow ourselves some a little license to fail and search out an insightful community that offers both constructive critique and encouragement.
(Picture: CC 2008 by lrargerich; Hat Tips: Writing, Clear and Simple and Between Two Worlds)