Reader Ann Marie commented that putting words on a page can have a sense of permanence. She expressed the fears that I think are pretty typical for writers. I could relate anyway.
“What if they don’t approve? Why should I care? Augh!”
Do you get the same sense of overwhelming panic when you think of writing for an audience?
For the record, I know Ann Marie. I think she’s hilarious and I love to read her stuff. I find myself shaking my head and laughing at her stories.
But when you’re the writer you don’t have that luxury. You can’t. You’re the creator and that can be terrifying.
We put a lot of pressure on ourselves when we write. We want the words to flow and be meaningful and natural. We want it to be something we can love as much as that favorite book of ours written by that author we want to be when we grow up.
Shannon Hale says someone asked her once if Goose Girl was easy to write because it was effortless for them to read. She laughed because she knew the countless hours of work that went into her book. No word is there that she didn’t first agonize over.
So we recognize that easy reading means someone else’s hard work. It’s no wonder then that facing a blank page can be so intimidating.
Here’s something that helps me. I don’t let people read my first drafts. I can’t. It’s too hard to make it good enough at first. And the idea of someone else reading the first thoughts out of my head makes me want to bury my head and hide.
Stephen King says in his book On Writing that he always writes his first draft with the door closed. This allows him to shut out the pressures that can come from other people reading over his shoulder. He removes that fear that paralyzes writers. It can be garbage because he’s the only one seeing it.
Give yourself permission for the drivel to come. And by all means, close the door when you do it. Because the only thing worse than reading your own drivel is knowing someone else is reading it too! This is not to say that you should hide your work. I’m a big fan of sharing. But you have to get something down first because you can’t fix what isn’t there.
My challenge for my fellow writers this week is to find some time to write. Find time to close that door either figuratively or literally. And write. Just write. Let your work be garbage for now. The door is closed. It’s just you and the blank page.
Then if you’re feeling brave enough to share your experience I’d love to hear how it goes!