When I begin any new writing project, I’m filled with fear
I doubt my capabilities
I question how I arrived in this predicament
What will come out?
Will it be any good?
Do I have anything original to say?
Why couldn’t I just be a numbers person and settle into a cush office job manipulating Excel spreadsheets? But alas …
For anything to venture forth from this quivering place, I must create an environment of safety. I must quiet my logical left-brain and embrace my feeling, creative self. To do this, I cannot look at my computer screen when embarking on any first draft. That blank page is too white, too perfect, and that hungry cursor is too desirous of a masterpiece. Instead my eyes rest somewhere far less stimulating and ripe for improvement, the keyboard. This distraction allows my thoughts to arrive safely without being immediately scoffed at and deleted.
I think of my ideas as weary travelers. They’ve been bouncing around in my head for sometime. Their flights were delayed. They spent the night sleeping under fluorescent lights in the Southwest Terminal because this was the only place with semi-acceptably padded chairs. It’s only natural that when they land on the page they look a little shoddy. They’ve come a long way.
I let them arrive and like any good host ask for nothing. I do not belabor the writing. I do consider structure, grammar or spelling. I do not hem and haw over the next perfect sentence. I don’t even think about my audience. The goal is simple — get what is in, out and move on. It’s surgical. Sometimes I write the same sentence several times as new ideas emerge. Sometimes a clever headline will arrive when I’m not thinking about headlines. Sometimes I discover a new way start a paragraph in the middle of another paragraph. I include it all and trust I’ll be able to rearrange another time. The only rule for draft one is to include everything.
Often I’m accompanied by a nasty little voice intent on convincing me that whatever I’m creating is complete and utter crap. “This is embarrassing. You should just stop,” it says. “Writer, ha! Yeah, right. You’re wasting your time. Go find a real job. Loser.” This voice is mean. This voice will not allow anything new to come into the world because it expects perfection from the very beginning. DO NOT LISTEN TO THIS VOICE. Press on.
When I’ve said all I can think to say, I close the document and do something else. I’m done for today. The hard work is over.
I give myself at least a day before going back to whatever was written. Then, with some trepidation, I reopen the document. Surprise! It’s never as bad as that little voice said it would be. There are no monsters waiting to pounce or idiots primed from embarrassment. These thoughts aren’t too bad. Some are even quite funny.
I’ve never come back to a draft and thrown it entirely away. There’s always something to work with and that’s when the real fun begins. Cleaning up a second draft is like giving a makeover. These ideas have had a night to rest, now for a shower and some clean clothes. This is where grammar, structuring and creativity come in. There’s another voice, one that’s often more kind and reassuring. It sees possibility. “Hey, I like how you did that, very clever that reference to traveling.”
I look over it all and think, well, hey, this could actually maybe work … what do you know? This feels good. This feels like nourishment.
So why do I share this? When I opened the page I thought I’d write about self care, but this is what came out so I’m going with it.
Even if you’re not a writer. Even if you’d rather have a tooth pulled than start a blog, we all have some creative pursuit that’s our thang – at least I hope. And, I think that thang, no matter which way you stripe it looks a lot like trusting and getting out of the way. This is my process for doing so.