Is your writing ever paralyzed by that statement? I know it’s gotten me sometimes. All it takes is picking up a book you love and reading for a few minutes. Soon, you’ll be saying to yourself, “That settles it. No writing for me today! There’s no way I can match that, let alone improve on it. Find my own voice? Hah! It’s the squeak of a mouse.”
The problem is common enough that distinguished creative types have their own point of view:
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
― Ira Glass
For those looking for a more short-term approach, author Robert Sheckley had some great advice:
Don’t try to write a story. Try to write a simulation of a story.
It doesn’t have to contain real characters or a real plot, just hazy imitations of those. And the words? It doesn’t matter. It’s just a fake story so write whatever stupid little words fall out of your head. If you want to describe something as supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, go for it. If you’d rather call it nice, do that instead. But call it something and move on.
I took a similar approach when I ran into a wall with my current novel just a few weeks ago. I can tell you, it works. Many times, we wind ourselves up so tight, our creative blood seizes up and refuses to flow. That’s not good and when our body finally relaxes naturally, we look back at all of the wasted time and feel bad about ourselves all over again.
So seeing how this is a common problem, how have you tackled it? I would love to hear your thoughts.