Writers may have a whole story mapped out, right down the ending, but they’ll stare at a blinking cursor for an hour trying to figure out the first word. Or halfway through, the fear of not being good enough threatens to shut down the whole project. I know the feeling all too well as I’m always striving to do the best I can and it’s hard to shake the doubt bubble that floats right over my head. While the doubt never completely goes away, I have learned there are ways to work past it.
Part of bypassing the all-present doubt bubble has to do with letting go of fear. Almost every writer I know battles with the fear of writing a less than perfect piece. For some, this fixation on perfection prevents the completion of a final draft. I’ll be the first to admit, I often get stuck reading over a draft multiple times before I get around to writing anything new. Instead of paying attention to what resides in my imagination, I’m focusing on restructuring sentences and questioning my comma usage. Its a vicious cycle that leads to a number of partial drafts and very few final drafts.
An exercise in Wreck This Journal helped put this all in perspective as it reminded me that making a creative mess is where freedom and progress begin. The page gives instructions to make a mess and clean it up, so that’s what I did! My trusty crayons and markers gave me everything I needed as I made one page an absolute mess of scribbles and wayward coloring and the other page a of model neatness with straight lines and smooth coloring strokes. I used the same colors so it would look like I took the left hand side and ironed it until it looked like the right hand side. The neatnik in me rejoiced!
The concept of this page is so simple, but it reaches so much deeper to a writer trapped by a doubt bubble. As I sat coloring, I thought about how I have to be fearless when it comes to the first draft, (maybe even the second or third!). Its okay to make mess with horrible grammar and spelling. It’s to be expected that characters won’t turn out right the first time. Every story needs to play out a few different ways before it finds the right groove. I have to keep reminding myself that whatever I’m writing is going to be a disaster and that’s okay! The iron is never far away, but it’s important to keep it out of reach for a little while. If I spend all my time fussing over creating the perfect manuscript the first time around, the doubt bubble will win. I owe it to my work and to my muse to let go of the fear.
Every mess can be straightened up . . . eventually. All it takes is a little patience and a bold attitude to make that mess in the first place. Resist the urge to be perfect and just write!