It’s so easy to get super precious about our work.
Whether we’re writing our weekly blog post, our website, or our book, it’s not hard to get hung up on the details. We stress about beginning, or ending (or middling!) effectively. We flail and shout. We’re sometimes convinced we suck.
When we conjure something out of nothing, it takes energy and skill. Making it appeal to others is even harder.
But getting stressed about the details and the efficacy of your work, while sometimes frustrating, isn’t always the end of the world. Sometimes a little bit of obsession fuels our focus. And, after all, sometimes that kind of attention really does make your writing better.
The thing that really concerns me about our tendency to obsess over our work isn’t when we get focused on the mechanics or the relatability of our words, though.
It’s when we apply that same kind of single-minded focus and drive to solving our writing woes through logistics.
Whether it’s another approach to mapping out your blog posts, or a step-by-step guide for creating a scene, or yet. another. program that promises you increased efficacy(!) when drafting…the reason you're not writing the way you want is NOT that you don’t have the perfect system or bit of secret knowledge.
In fact, when we’re struggling or getting hung up with a creative or writing-based project, it’s really uncommon for the problem to be completely (or even mostly) logistical in nature.
That’s not to say you’re never going to have a logistical roadblock, but when concrete issues get in our way, they’re usually pretty easy to dissolve or circumvent with a little bit of attention and research—or a well-informed friend.
And this isn’t just true in writing-land. How often has a genuine logistical issue prevented you from doing something you really, really wanted?
But when you’re spending hours on each thousand-word article, have been staring at a blank about page for weeks, or haven’t picked up your book manuscript in a month, my instinct is that it’s not just logistics that are getting in your way.
It’s not that you haven’t found the perfect guide, the perfect list, the perfect solution.
There isn’t a perfect solution for this kind of messy, imperfect work.
The only solution is your solution—and you can’t learn or solve your way out of the discomfort of creating.
My essential point here is this: if you’re struggling with your writing, be honest with yourself about why that is. Name what’s actually going on, and then address your concern directly.
If you’re nervous that you’re not a good writer, own it.
If you’re not sure that people will like what you’ve written, own it.
If you’re not sure that your story will matter to anyone, OWN IT.
If you feel like you’re wasting your time, if you’re disillusioned, if you don’t know if you can finish, if you’re just plain worried—it’s okay. It is okay to feel the way you feel. Most writers do.
But whatever is actually coming up for you, look inside, and shine the light on it so you can apply your formidable resources to the issue at hand.
When our concerns can be solved in a concrete way, we find the solution.
But when you find yourself returning, again and again, to learn just a little bit more, to find just a little bit better approach, you’re not actually solving a problem. You’re allowing yourself to avoid looking at the real issue at hand. Stop.
Great novels have been written on notebook paper. Great writing doesn’t (necessarily) require a formal education or a team of copywriters or the snowflake method. Whatever you’re telling yourself you need before you can get started, before you finish, before you commit yourself to your project and your creative work—it’s likely untrue.
So figure out what’s really getting in the way.
Even if you don’t have a ready solution—or there’s no ready solution to be had—understanding what you’re up against really is more than half the battle.
So. Go out and win that thing.