By Katherine Wright
Writing is undoubtedly a time-consuming, overwhelming, intimidating and frustratingly open-ended process. Even so, the creative liberty it provides is glorious and satisfying in its final product.
We keep writing and continue to find joy and accomplishment in it. But with every project we tackle, we are quickly reminded of the resulting frustration, doubt and confusion writing causes. It is a daunting experience, riddled with uncertainty — so much so, a phrase was invented for it: writer’s block.
Ah, writer’s block. The unfortunately common, momentum-freezing best friend of procrastination. In many ways, it’s a reflection of our self-doubt and fear of a blank document. It’s an excuse to mindlessly wait for inspiration.
We type in our name, maybe an “Insert Title Here,” and then go silent, no longer confident in our ability to form coherent sentences. Our expectation of coherency and perfectionism may be the very problem that causes writer’s block in the first place.
As the blank document stares back at us, we feel judged by its vastness. This seemingly permanent canvas provides endless possibilities, so we’re scared to commit any words to the page. We view our work as if it’s being typed on a typewriter: every sentence, word and letter must be perfectly thought-out or we risk ruining the entire thing.
There seems to be an unsaid emphasis on perfectionism whenever we sit down to write. It’s as if everything we type has to stay there forever without being changed or deleted. Maybe it’s because we hate erasing what we have already written, so we will do anything to avoid that painful slashing process.
Or maybe it’s because we forget writing is inherently messy. Writing is rewriting and deleting and editing. It’s not perfect, and it’s not clean-cut or calculated. If we expect ourselves to get everything right in the first draft, then we limit our writing and restrict ourselves within tightly wound boundaries of creativity.
I know it’s easier said than done to just brain-dump everything you’re thinking onto an empty page. Getting started is difficult, and first drafts are perhaps the hardest part of the process. The blinking cursor mocks us in its consistency, patiently waiting for us to muster the courage to start.
When I was in second grade I had the “brilliant” idea to write the eighth Harry Potter book. Even though I recoiled at the thought of merely writing a few sentences for homework and had zero awareness of copyright policies, I was caught up in the magical idea I could create something great and continue the Hogwarts storyline.
Needless to say, I abandoned the project after approximately half a sentence. Even though the goal was completely out-there, an expectation of perfection and getting too caught up in the future glory of it all was the No.1 reason why Harry Potter book eight never saw the light of day.
The same situation happened when I bought a journal called “Wreck This Journal.” The book’s purpose was for the “reader” to cut up and use its pages for fun, free-spirited activities. I was so excited about it, but then remained so mesmerized by the “newness” of the pages that it eventually went untouched and unsullied.
No more. I will push perfectionism and writer’s block to the side and finally embrace the chaotic, all-over-the-place messiness that comes with writing.
It’s the only choice — they are one and the same.