The Two Worst Enemies Every Writer Faces
Episode #2 of the course How to build a strong writing habit by Frank McKinley
Welcome to lesson two, fellow writer!
In the first lesson, we saw a few things that block writers. Now let’s uncover the forces that drive those assumptions: perfectionism and procrastination.
Perfectionism drives you to dot every i and cross every t. It leads you to obey all the rules, whether they’re generally accepted or self-imposed. It makes you think that if you get everything right, things will work out as they should.
The fear that it won’t lead to procrastination. If you don’t take risks, you can’t fail. But if you hold back, you can’t succeed, either.
See how powerful these forces are?
Let’s take away their power with three simple strategies.
Find Time to Write Even If You’re So Busy You Can’t Breathe
Perfectionism leads us to believe writing is a mystical experience.
You invite the muse by:
• brewing coffee
• decorating your office
• setting aside a golden hour where no one can disturb you
All that is great, but it’s not required.
Got 15 minutes on your lunch hour? Rant into your smartphone. Use your thumbs or a portable keyboard. Write into Apple notes, Google docs, or your favorite digital notepad.
Set a prompt and make three points. Then recap. You’re done!
Grab enough spare moments and you can write a book manuscript this year.
Lower Your Standards
Your favorite writers make it look so easy.
What you don’t see are the ugly first drafts, the countless rounds of editing, and the doubts.
Throw out the rules. Invite bad words. You can always edit the mess later.
You can’t edit what you don’t write.
Suspend judgment until you’re done writing. If others smile when you tell them about your idea, go for it. Save the critic for when it will do the most good.
No writing is perfect. Your favorite book has errors. Look hard enough and you’ll find them. The work that gets published is writing that is finished.
You can finish, can’t you?
Don’t let perfectionism lock your words away.
When you lower your standards, you raise the standards that matter. You will be writing, habitually. And with more practice, you’ll get better.
I’d say that’s better than perfect.
Quit Worrying about What Your Friend Think
Your friends may support you, but they probably won’t buy your books.
Quit worrying about what your friends think. If you want to grow as a writer, share your work with the people you can help. If that’s friends, great. If not, who cares? At work, your friends don’t buy from you. Get over it. Serve the people who can enjoy what you do. Your wisdom is for them.
Devoted readers who pay to read your writing are all the approval you need.
Do This Now
To write every day, you’ll need something to write about.
Pick your five favorite topics. If you’re not sure what those are, think about where your mind goes when you’re bored.
See any patterns?
Write those down.
When you go with that flow, your inner genius will come out. You’ve already invested time in these topics. You’ve thought through problems and come up with solutions. You’ve asked “what if” and explored the possibilities.
It’s time to mine that gold.
In the next lesson, we’ll tackle procrastination head on. Until then, get your pen ready!
Write your heart out,
Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway, Elizabeth Stuckey-French, and Ned Stuckey-French
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