Writing is hard. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either trying to make you feel bad, or trying to sell you something.
This weekend was the absolute hardest time I’ve ever had at getting started writing. And while I am not quite sure what caused the hardship (Blizzard’s new game Overwatch), I can say that I learned something about myself as a writer that you might relate with.
I learned that the process of writing, the part of writing many people assume they fear, is not the cause of writer’s block. In fact, the actual writing bit is quite easy. The problem, at least for me, is convincing myself to start.
I have a neural pathway carved into my brain that leads me on a cyclical journey on an almost daily basis. It propels my thinking around this little microscopic race track where the thought “I want to be a writer, therefore I need to write” is at the finish line, and “You’ll never make a living doing this, you’re not good enough”, or some combination of those two thoughts is at the starting line.
Now, I’ve written before about the inner critic, and how fighting it is impossible. I still believe that. I’ve also advised that you outrun your inner critic rather than face it head on. The problem though, is that there will always come a time in any written work where you accidentally run yourself into a soggy quagmire known as “the middle of the story”; and it is here that your critic can catch up, tackle you, and dunk your head under the murky water.
Here is where you get no work done.
Here is where you start comparing yourself or your story to others.
Here is where self-doubt cripples you, that is, before you can even get started.
Here is where — you if you ever hope to get going — you’ve got to say “screw it” or “fuck it” or whatever you prefer. Why? Well, because it lets you tell yourself that it is ok to write shit. It is ok to experiment and play around with your words. Stop being so hard on yourself, push through the slog, get your critic off your back and wade your ass to the other side of that swamp. You’ll be stronger for it.
Just remember that no one is keeping score on a first draft. You have the freedom to write shit. No one is going to see your terrible writing, but guess what? You will still be leaps and bounds ahead of the thousands of others who gave up and let their critic drown them in that water.
Think of yourself as a sculptor.
The words you write today are the raw clay that you will come back to create your masterpiece with. All you are doing is getting enough clay in its raw form to create what you actually want. No one expects a pile of clay to be displayed in an art gallery (unless you’re into contemporary art I guess), and neither should you. So get the words out. Terrible or not. Just get started, or keep going where you left off. You’re just gathering your medium from which your sculpture will eventually emerge. You’re not creating the statue of David on your first go, you’re creating the marble block from which he was carved from.
So say screw it, get that monkey off your back and start digging in. Write horribly, write fast, write slow, but just make sure you write.