Being scared of writing

I suspect that one reason why we writers shy away from writing is that we are scared of it. I know I am – I have been – but I suspect that this fear, which can be paralysing and lead to all kinds of delaying tactics, is based around a fundamental misconception about how writing works.

Writing is basically about having fun with words. And worrying about writing is obviously not fun. But why do we worry?

I suspect that one reason we delay, fret and make endless excuses not to write is because we fear we have to ‘get it right’. Since we are frightened that our text is never going to be the best it could be – and it should be easy, FGS, we are writers after all – we shy away from it.

But if we are holding ourselves back from doing what we can enjoy – having fun with our writing – through any belief that we ‘have’ to get it perfect,  we have forgotten that every single piece of work evolves over time by a slow process of idea, expression, editing and refinement, often in ways that are highly personal.

Nonetheless, the key realisation that breaks through personal dread, is that all writing has to evolve; and each writer works in a different ways and at a different speeds to reach an end point which may be months or years ahead. Evolution is a process, implying that every story, every item of literary expression has to be worked at, refined and perfected.

By definition, our first, often most creative writing phases – the ones we are scared to attempt – and not going to be perfectly polished, and are never intended to be. The best they can hope to be is to be perfect material for the next stage in the process.

Once we realise that our writing is not expected to be totally perfect the first time we put it down, we are suddenly much freer to simply relax and allow ideas their expression. Expressing ideas and giving characters and events form in words is, almost by definition, a hard thing to do, so it is rare that an idea announces itself fully formed.

There are times when I have been able to put down a chapter without making many changes, but, simply considering the law of probability, this is bound to happen to all of us occasionally and does not disprove the general rule, that most writing is a labour of love, crafted in different ways and stages over a period of time.

Recognising that our version of perfection may take a while to turn up, suddenly we feel much freer to write whatever we feel like writing, as a first draft. And, paradoxically, admitting that writing is a many-stage process, frees us up to be more confident and to take that leap, to fly by the seat of our pants.

They say the trick is to make it look easy. But writing a smooth finished product rarely is. But that’s okay, as long as we realise that every good thing takes time to get right, and that our time is well invested.

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