I can tell you right now what the biggest hinderance to my productivity (at least when it comes to writing) is.
No, it’s not my attention span, though that’s definitely what I complain about most loudly and most often (mainly because it’s so pervasive, even in other aspects of my life).
And it’s not lack of time either, though Lord knows I could use about three or four extra hours in my day just to get the basic neccessities taken care of.
No – even when I have the time to sit down, and I have the focus to brainstorm ideas and formulate imagery and characters and plot arcs, there’s still something that keeps me from actually commiting words to the page, and part of it involved being overly attached to my premises.
Whether it’s a poem or a short story, I tend to agonize over whatever my idea is; when I have an idea that I deem really good (which is not super often these days), I get tangibly excited, and ruminate (read: perseverate) on this idea for hours, days, weeks, building it up to the point where it becomes sacrosanct, and I’m afraid that if I actually try to write it, I will tarnish it in some way.
Suddenly, this idea that I came up with, that sprang from my mind, from my creative brain, is something that I, as a writer, do not feel equiped to handle; suddenly, I’m not good enough for it. It is beyond my abilities to do it justice.
But, seeing that I also don’t trust anyone else to do it justice, I instead become fixated on writing it “right.” On finding and committing only the “right” words to the page.
By this point, however, I’ve placed this idea on such a lofty pedestal that none of the words committed to paper feel right; none of them seem to really capture the depth and feeling and higher meaning of this idea. The paradox of being arrogant enough to consider any idea I generated to be such genius, and yet being self-depricating enough to feel wholly inadequate in my ability to translate that idea into the appropriate words, is exhausting.
And it is a surefire way to make sure that this “brilliant idea” never actually sees the light of day.
As I mentioned in my last post, my goals for this year include patience and perseverance, and above that, not conflating patience with procrastination.
It doesn’t mean waiting for the right words to come – the right words are the words that get it written. It means the quiet fortitude to work through my writer’s block and slog through the drudgery of a first draft. It means affording myself tenderness and compassion as I allow myself to write poetry and prose that feels stiff and stilted. It means not conflating constructive criticism with validation of my fears of not being good enough. It means allowing myself to rest when I’m genuinely running on empty, without feeling guilty, without presuming myself to be a failure.
It means making a repeated, conscious effort to remember that, yes, writing takes time, but the bulk of that time should be spent actually writing, not waiting for some sort of divine inspiration to guide my hand.
This is true for anyone reading this; anyone whose creativity is constantly at war with their self-doubt, and with the romanticized notion that art of any stripe springs forth fully formed.
Forget about the “right” words. The right words are the words that get your story told. They might feel wrong – it doesn’t matter. Put the “wrong” ones down. And then rewrite it. An rewrite it. And you will get closer and closer to the “right” words, every time.