And then the day came
when the risk
to remain tight
in a bud
was more painful
than the risk
to blossomAnais Nin
Have you ever sat in front of your computer or at a desk with pen in hand hovering over a notebook? But words won’t come? No matter how badly you wish for them to appear. We all have our unique sets of deeply held beliefs about the writing process. Some of us decide that we are unable to write unless creative impulses motivate us to do so. And the words we hope will somehow instantly appear come forth well formed, sparkling and shiny, delivering just the perfect story or poem or essay.
At times, we create goals that must be achieved. Goals commonly touted to make us become successful writers range from producing according to daily word counts to writing for a specified length of time. Set timers. Free-write first. And failure to achieve these illustrious goals may inadvertently lead us away from the writer’s life into a pit of upset, shame, and frustration.
Sometimes we fall into a belief that we must have a writer’s space, a special dedicated room in order for our craft to evolve. We long for that room of one’s own in true Virginia Woolf fashion, blaming our lack of productivity on not having just the right place where our hoped for success would be defined. If only I have…becomes a rumination that stops us before we start.
And then there is flow. At times, we seek and strive to achieve a state of flow hoping that words will unfurl from our minds in an effortless, almost mystical kind of way. Flow can become a state of writer’s nirvana that we pursue relentlessly but give up and stop the practice of writing when it doesn’t happen for us.
But writing is a practice much like exercise or learning new skills where our expectations need to be firmly grounded in reality and we also need to develop comfort with the notion of taking risks. Risks to fail, risks to write poorly or to be uninspired. The very action of writing will often propel us forward and by resisting this, we can easily become stuck or mired in procrastination.
It does seem to be true that the more you write, the more it seems like you are just limbering up unused muscles. At a certain point, this practice begins to take hold and things routinely start to happen on the page. By balancing our expectations, taking the risks necessary for learning the craft, and simply sitting down to place one words in front of another, small miracles of creation begin to unfold.
No one but you even knows you are taking such risks. Celebrate every risk you take as a writer. Your creative life will appreciate it.
Stay healthy and safe!