Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Written Word

When it comes to being creative, my first love has always been the written word. I fell madly in love with writing in the sixth grade when I wrote my very first poem for a school assignment. But even before that I loved books. The way they looked, the way they felt, the way they smelled, and most especially the way they made me feel when I read them. At any moment I could crack open a cover and be transported and transformed. I became Sara Crewe in A Little Princess, Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden, and Mary Wallace in Baby Island. A new book was like walking through the wardrobe into Narnia -- a whole world of excitement and adventure awaited within those pages.

So it was only natural that once I was able to put together words into sentences for myself, that I turned them into the one thing I loved best: a good story. Writing is so much a part of who I am, I don't think I would recognize myself without it. And I wouldn't want it any other way.

Unfortunately, I'm also a perfectionist, and for many years I set the bar so high for myself and my writing that it was nearly impossible to attain. Fear that I simply wasn't good enough crippled me so that I was unable to finish any book I started. I've learned the hard way that a rough draft is simply that, rough. My perfectionist tendencies don't need to come into play until much later, when the story is completely written and the editing process begins. If you are an aspiring writer, I beg you to learn from my mistakes and write for the pure joy of it. Putting demands on yourself when you are still in the creative process of a story is like holding your muse at gunpoint. It might give you what you want, but it will be done begrudgingly and I promise you it won't be your best.

So last November I finally gave myself permission to write crap. You heard me! After all, as the great (no idea at all who he is) Will Shetterly once said, "It is better to write a bad first draft than to write no first draft at all." I've learned that I don't have to have the story all figured out the first time through. I don't even have to know where the story is going. It's okay to figure things out along the way.
It all sounds so simple, but I can't tell you how freeing it was for me to realize that. I'd been carrying around this enormous burden, weighing each and every word, testing every sentence for strength, as if my entire future rested upon them. I was trying to run a marathon when all I should have been taking baby steps.
Long story short, I'm currently three chapters in to my current WIP (that's writer-speak for Work In Progress) and I'm loving it! The desperation and unrealistic expectations have fled the premises and the sheer delight and sense of adventure and discovery that made me fall in love with writing in the first place have returned in full force.
My internal editor will have its way soon enough, when the plot twists and turns are mapped out and all the loose ends are tied up. But for now, I'm just enjoying the journey.
For creative writing inspiration and advice, including a weekly Wednesday writing prompt, visit my other blog, Penciled Whimsies at

1 comment:

  1. Like you, I have not been brave enough to just sit down and write, until I came to the same conclusion not long ago. I blame it on laziness, and I think that is partly right. A lazy person does not face the things they know they should do. So...I'm sitting on the edge of starting that first sentence of the first chapter of my rough draft.

    I know that when I finally do sit down and slog out a very "straight from the head" rough draft, I'll hate it. I'll hate it while I'm doing it, and I'll hate it when I return to it to rewrite it later on. But I'm more ready now to face this challenge than ever before. My characters are more ready, and my plot is more ready. I think they're finally strong enough to survive my pathetic first attempts to write it all out.

    As always, you're ahead of me in the game, having already written three chapters. Good for you!! You are going to go far, and one day I want to have a signed copy of your novel.


Thank you so much for taking a few moments to brighten my day!


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