Recently, I was asked to write a guest blog post, and it jumpstarted my writing practice. The act of writing the guest post provided me with an opportunity to observe my own writing process. I did what I always do which is to try and plan the entire post in my head before writing the first word. I spent eight days juggling ideas in my mind and trying to put them together into something coherent. This planning-it-all-out-in-my-head is my usual writing routine, but what normally happens is I never actually sit down to write. I turn the ideas around and around in my head for so long that they lose their magic before ever making it to the page. This time, however, I had a deadline. The post was due in ten days, and I didn’t put the first word on paper until the ninth day. What I noticed, though, is that what came out on the page was nothing like what I had spent eight days creating in my head. It was an eye-opening experience. There are many times that I don’t put something down on paper because I can’t figure it out in my head, or I can’t get the idea shaped the way I want it to be so I don’t even bother. This experience provided me with an epiphany: I’ve been trying to do all of my writing in the distracted and chaotic environment that is my brain, and that’s why I’ve been experiencing such a profound case of “writer’s block.” I also realized that I don’t trust myself to just sit down and write, that I have some kind of aversion to simply putting words on the page without exhaustively processing them in my mind first. This issue is clearly driven by the need for perfection. Of course, logically I know nothing is ever perfect, but somewhere along the way, I convinced myself that if I couldn’t achieve that perfection in my head first, there was no point in even trying to flesh the idea out on paper. I never considered trying to work my ideas out on paper first. I never considered that the solution to my incessant writer’s block would be to let my “working/critical” mind take a break while allowing my “creative” mind to take over. Luckily, the experience of writing the guest post was just what I needed to jumpstart that process. And what came out as a result was raw, authentic, and vulnerable rather than distant and rehearsed, and it was a much more powerful piece because of it. So, my new practice is to write no matter what. This doesn’t mean that I have to stop trying to work things out in my head, but it does mean that will no longer let my inability to work it all out in my head keep me from putting words down on paper every single day. The results of implementing this practice: In two weeks I have completed drafts of two children’s books, written five blog posts, and rewritten the first two chapters of my novel!
We exist in your imagination where words can be spoken with no regret and stories told with no judgment. We are exactly as we want to be – no apologies necessary. You coax us through your writing mind so that we can become real to others, but once we emerge as ink on your page our magic is gone. We can no longer feel our individuality. We are exposed in front of you, judged, humiliated, and degraded. You cut us into pieces molding us to fit what you think others want us to be. Words are taken from our mouths and minds and replaced with something more acceptable. We begin to take on new shapes, our identities stripped again and again until we no longer resemble who we once were. We try to explain that you have taken our essence, but you tell us not to argue. You have deadlines to meet and you know what works. But now we stand before you, unrecognizable to ourselves and to you. You were supposed to bring us to life, but here in this malleable world we are hollow and lifeless – mirror images of everyone else.