Now, to balance out what I’ve just written in that last post, it’s always great when you’ve done a ton of research and you’ve outlined all your characters and their backgrounds and their motivations and desires and dislikes and needs and fears, and you’ve spent hours just lolling around on a big, fluffy rug in the sunshine and thinking up all kinds of plot lines and story lines and the Great Big Important Premise of your story.
And now it’s time to write!
But you can’t do it. You’re too scared. You’re scared to put your dreams into fruition. You’re scared of the actual work. You’re scared of failure. You’re scared of having Really Bad Grammar. You’re scared of not writing well – of not being able to spew forth beautiful, lyrical, amazing writing straight from the pen onto the sheets, of not having yet found your true, authentic writing voice. You’re scared that when you finally do find your true, authentic voice, it’s going to suck (But it won’t. Because whatever’s authentic and true will not suck).
“No subject is terrible if the story is true, if the prose is clean and honest, and if it affirms courage and grace under pressure.” – Midnight in Paris
But maybe you’re just scared it would. Maybe you’re scared of… well, if you’re like me, you’re scared of everything, including the basement parking lot at work because it’s just so creepy and there might be a scary clown that looks like Pennywise from It, lurking in the dark shadowy corners or hiding under your car, ready to stick out a massive gloved hand to snatch at your ankle. (Being a perfectly logical and mature 28-year-old, I would rather park outdoors and face the risk of being attacked by the very real sex attacker that’s been lurking around the neighbourhood, rather than park in the basement and face the chance of meeting the imaginary Pennywise down there. Stephen King, what have you done to me?!??)
But you know what? Pennywise clown aside, I want you to leave your fears aside! They’re nothing more than big, scary-looking cobwebs stopping you from getting what you want. If you push on, you’ll find you’ll be able to blow them aside real easily! You can always go back and edit and smooth out sentences and untangle implausible plotlines and correct the grammar… and if you fail, who cares? Write another book! Keep writing! Everyone fails – and we all learn from our failures.
The most important thing right now is just to take a deep breath… and write. Write anything that comes to mind. Don’t worry about having polished, amazing, Tennyson-worthy writing ready to flow from your fingertips or your pen (depending on whether you’re using a laptop or a pen). Just…write. Spontaneous writing is one of the best ways of finding your real voice. So just write. We can get to all the messy grammar bits later in the second, third, and trillionth drafts. Just concentrate on putting it down now.
Warm up drill for writers
Here’s a writing warm-up exercise for those of us who are great at procrastinating (wait a minute, I need to put on the right music. And check out a few websites to get me in the right mood. And put on the right lighting. And have that cup of tea/orange juice/hot milk with honey sitting next to me…).
Step away from the hot milk!!! Just flip open that notepad or open up that Microsoft Word Document. Set a timer to three minutes. Start the timer. Start writing. Write anything. Anything at all. It doesn’t have to be about your story. It can be about anything, your work, your life, your thoughts, silly, random, senseless nonsense, how much you hate the next door neighbour’s cat or how hot the next door neighbour is, et cetera, et cetera. This is just to get you going, to push aside that habit of procrastination, to get you in the flow of things. To get you to… just write.
Now to grab an elastic band, some silver star earrings, and face down my Pennywise fears… on the other hand, maybe I’ll just sit here and write.