I’ve been blocked today.
In the last two weeks, the Write Practice has grown by 50%. I’ve dreamed of this place as a community of writers based around practice, and I’m thrilled and a bit humbled that so many are seeing the potential for such a community for their own writing.
But it also makes me nervous. There are a lot of new readers today. What if I screw it up?
Every writer has this fear. You’ve probably had this fear before. You get a little success, and all of a sudden the fear stops you dead in your path.
Writer’s block arises almost universally from performance anxiety, the fear that what you’ve made isn’t good enough, the fear that who you are isn’t good enough.
To conquer anxiety, we try to be perfect. We try to write something that we know everyone will like. We brag and we use big words and we sensationalize. The problem is, it doesn’t work, and it’s a stupid way to deal with writer’s block for two reasons.
1. You will never be perfect.
Perfect doesn’t exist for the writer, and aiming for perfection will only make you more anxious.
2. It does nothing for your reader.
I’ve fallen in love with this quote from Robert McKee’s Story:
When talented people write badly, it’s generally for one of two reasons: Either they’re blinded by an idea they feel compelled to prove or they’re driven by an emotion they must express. When talented people write well, it is generally for this reason: They’re moved by a desire to touch the audience.
When you load yourself with the weight of perfection, you become blinded by the idea of Yourself, this godlike creator that must be praised. Gods do not make good storytellers. Storytellers are born when they come down to the level of their audience and attempt to speak to those vulnerabilities that lie hidden inside all of us.
So if you are blocked today, give up perfection. Be vulnerable. Say to yourself, “I am only a writer. I am not a god. I can only put words on a page. Someone else will have to give them life.”
Write about a novelist struggling with the weight of his own perfectionism. What does he do to distract himself from his impossible task?
Write for fifteen minutes. Post your practice in the comments when your finished.
And please, no perfect posts!