A Writer’s Life: Expectation

What keeps a writer going?

That’s an interesting question. On the surface, it’s easy to rattle off a long list. Love of the story, dedication to their craft, or—as we talked about last week—determination.

But I’m inclined to think that at the base of it all, whether we admit it or not, the driving force behind our creativity is expectation. The expectation of a book in our hands, of our reader’s surprise and enjoyment of our book, of typing those exceptionally satisfying words, The End. Without expectation, the frustration and discouragement of writing can become too much.

Expectation

Expectation is so, so important for your writing journey. Goals, dreams, a solid idea of why you’re working as hard as you are is so important. If you don’t have that, you will peter out long before you reach the finish line. Whether you need a mantra, a dream journal, or a poster with your goals written out for you to see and read every morning, cultivating expectation is one of the most important things you can do.

Expectation is the trust that at the end of the journey, after all the bumps and snarls, there will be a finished product.

Everyone has dreams they’re running after, everyone has hopes . . . but sometimes we forget to define and hold onto those dreams and use them to drive their journey forward.

How To Make It Happen

Expectation should drive you forward—not hold you back with disappointment and frustration. It should be what keeps you together, keeps your writing, keeps you hoping on the days that are hard. Writing has ups and downs, and some seasons of the writing journey have more downs than ups. Without using expectation to keep myself moving, I would have given up a long time ago.

I do it with two truths, three tricks, and one solid dream.

Truth #1

Without expectation—or hope—the hard days will drag you down and eventually end your dream. We all have bad days. Whether you like it or not, there will be days when you want to give up. There will be days when it feels too hard and too impossible to continue.

Without expectation—without hope—your manuscripts have a good chance of ending up in the trash.

Truth #2

Expectation needs intentionality to thrive. An undefined dream won’t get you anywhere. Do you know where you want to be? Do you have a goal, a plan, something to shoot for and hold onto when things are tough? 

Expectation needs intentionality. Intentionality comes from a person who cares enough about their dreams to define them.

Three Tricks

  1. Know your dreams. Have a journal. Have a vision board. Know what you want and what you’re aiming for. Take some time to sit down and really define what you’re aiming at in your journey. Do you want to finish your book? Write a series? Be published? Hit a bestseller list? You need to know that and know that you know it.
  2. Plan big, and allow yourself to dream beyond your own limits. Instead of saying, I wish, say, I will. Big dreams are scary because they feel out of reach and impossible. But the first step to achieving a big dream is admitting that you have one—and turning it into a goal.
  3. Have step-by-step goals. A dream with step-by-step goals becomes a plan and becomes achievable. You want to be a bestseller? Write a killer book. Start working on your pitch, on marketing, on social media platforms. Work on what is in your reach now, and have steps to help you climb your mountain. You’ll get there.

One Solid Dream

Everyone needs a dream, an end goal that they can turn back to when things are hard and they are starting to question why they do the things they do. Struggling forward in pursuit of someone else’s dream will drain you—struggling forward in pursuit of your own dream will build you.

Writer, know your dream. Whether you want to be a published author or a teacher or a journalist or a blogger, know your dream. Set goals. Have a dream board, a place to go to when you are tired and discouraged and ready to give up.

Know your dream. Plan for your dream. And move forward in expectation.

Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.

What are your dreams for your future and your stories? Tell me about them in the comments!

This is the last installment in the Writer’s Life series. I so enjoyed this journey with you, and I hope you will tune in next week as we tackle nine truths in a writer’s journey.

Until next time!

A Writer’s Life: Determination

If you were to ask me what quality has gotten me through eight manuscripts, a thousand edits, and seven years of ups and downs, I would immediately tell you one thing.

Pure, cussed stubbornness.

Or, if you want to be elegant about it: determination. In my case, they’re pretty close to the same thing.

Determination

Writing when I’m inspired is my favorite thing. The words flow, ideas build and connect, and my characters cooperate and do what they’re told. It’s a beautiful thing.

I’ll be honest, though. I’m not very often ‘inspired’. Most of the time, I’m not. Instead, I’m faithful and I show up when I really, really don’t want to be there.

Determination will get you to the end of the journey, more so even than skill or talent.

A lot of people have great ideas when they start writing. They have good intentions, cool characters, and awesome plot ideas. But they never get past the first few chapters or even the first page. I see stories like this all the time, and it always breaks my heart because there is so much potential and not enough determination to make it happen.

How To Make It Happen

Determination—in my case—comes from a tendency towards stubbornness, but it’s something that I have cultivated too. I am determined to be the best I can be, I am determined to see my books in print, and I am determined to develop my skill set as a writer.

It’s a choice, and it’s a quality that I have developed over the years. I’ve done it with two truths, three tricks, and the next thing.

Truth #1

Determination is getting up in the morning to do what’s ahead of you—even if you don’t feel like it. No one feels like it every day. No one gets up every single morning and is inspired.

Muses are lazy. You have to be the one to get your muse out of bed and moving. You have to be the one who is rock hard and determined to get your stories finished and into the world.

Truth #2

Choosing determination is choosing your career above everything else—above that movie you wanted to watch, above the night out with your friends, above a day at the beach. I always encourage writers to take breaks, to live their lives, to spend time in nature and in the world to fuel their stories, but there is a line. A place where it’s time to shut the door, block the world out, and pursue your story instead. Without that, it will never happen.

Three Tricks

  1. Set a schedule. Have a routine. Know when you have time to write and show up for your sessions. If you write best in the morning, then show up in the mornings. If you need moonlight and starlight to fuel your stories, then set aside your evenings to write. Know your time and set your schedule.
  2. Know your limits—and your strengths. Some people write in bursts and floods. Some in a steady flow. Find your methods, find your strengths, and exploit them. 
  3. Decide what you want, and how badly you want it. Know your goals. Do you want to be an author? Do you want to finish this book, or write a series, or hit a bestseller list someday? Know what you want. More than that, know how much you are willing to sacrifice and how determined you are to see results.

The Next Thing

Do the next thing in front of you. I tell myself this all the time when I’m stuck, when I don’t know where to go next, and I need a direction for my week—or even my day. Instead of trying to plan three months or three years down the road, I am content with doing the next thing in front of me, the next chapter, the next blog post, the next graphic.

Your journey is your own, and the only way to tackle it is by taking it one step at a time.

So take a deep breath, and do the next thing in front of you.

Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.

How do you cultivate determination in your writing journey? What does determination look like for you? Tell me about it in the comments, and stay tuned for next week, the last week of our twelve-week series, when we will be discussing expectations and how best to use them to your advantage.

A Writer’s Life: Waiting

No one likes to wait. Whether we’re in the movie theater, in line at the bank, or refreshing your email browser, no one enjoys that feeling. Some of us ease the wait by playing on our phones, bringing a book along, or daydreaming, but the result is the same.

Time wasted.

Stuck in a place we’d rather be, sometimes waiting for something we’d rather not do. It’s frustrating, it’s a bit of a pain, and as adults, writers, and creatives, it’s something we all have to put up with and learn to deal with in a healthy way. After all, publishing a book is alllllll about the waiting. Agents have hundreds of submissions to sift through. Publishers have queues of books to release before yours will be ready. Everything about this process is slow.

And slow is hard if your mindset is wrong.

Waiting

As frustrating and unproductive as waiting feels, it can be turned into valuable—even vital—time for a writer. Depending, of course, on our mindset while we wait.

Waiting can strengthen you as a writer—or it can undermine you.

Waiting—especially waiting for responses on queries, submissions, or feedback—can seriously undermine a writer’s confidence in themselves or their work. Questions crop up in the silence that we’d rather not face. Questions like, have I just made a complete fool of myself? Or, are they taking so long to reply because they totally hate it?

I don’t know about the rest of you, but the waiting is where I get the most insecure about what I’ve sent in. If I let myself, I can get into the worst, most damaging funks while I wait, and I can forget about getting any writing done in the meantime.

How To Make It Happen

And yet, I still have to write. I still have to continue on. The world doesn’t stop because I’m waiting for someone to respond to an email or an agent to finish reading my query and respond.

If the writing stops while I wait, I’ve both wasted endless amounts of time and trained my mind to stop producing under stress.

Neither of those are good things.

So, I’ve learned to keep going. I do it with two truths, three tricks, and a moment of stillness.

Truth #1

Waiting isn’t empty time. It might feel like empty time, it might feel like an ‘in-between’, but it isn’t. How you choose to fill your ‘in-between’ moments will ultimately determine what kind of writer you are and how well you produce under pressure.

It isn’t empty time. It’s extra time. Valuable time. Time to write, time to learn, time to develop your skills.

Truth #2

Your attitude is everything. Your work will suffer or thrive depending on how you view the waiting—and if you’re stressed out, convinced that your work isn’t being valued, or spending the time complaining, you aren’t taking advantage of the precious time you have ahead of you.

Three Tricks

  1. Don’t waste the time. As a writer who is pressed for time—all the time—I do my best to keep from wasting all my time on stress. Especially when I’m waiting for a reply. (Which, incidentally, I am doing this week.) Instead of focusing on the waiting, I get things done. If I don’t have the creativity for stories, I write tweets, blog posts, do some graphic design. Anything to check tasks off my to-do list and use the time I have wisely.
  2. Don’t check obsessively. I am the absolute worst about this one. Email, Facebook, Twitter. When I’m waiting for something, I check and recheck and double-check just to be sure. And it has never once has made any difference in how quickly my replies come through. Sometimes it really is better to shelve your phone for a while and move on to something else.
  3. Enjoy right now instead of focusing on someday. Someday will come, and when it comes it will have its own set of frustrations, fears, and headaches. Deal with them when they come, not now. Right now, enjoy the fact that you have time to write, that you have a project to work on, and that—even in this world of nine-to-fives—you get to be creative. That’s a gift.

A Moment Of Stillness

Take a moment. Be still. Close your eyes, and ground yourself. Take joy in where you are, in this stage of your journey, in the moment.

There is no hurry.

No rush.

No overwhelming need to race through your journey.

It may be tomorrow. It may be in six months. Whatever the time frame, you are still on the way, and you are still far ahead of those people who have given up, or never had the courage to try.

So pause. Take a deep breath. Have a moment of stillness and continue on.

Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.

What are you waiting for today? How are you using the in-between time to further yourself and your journey? Tell me about it in the comments, and stay tuned for next week, when we will be talking about faithfulness and the necessity of it in a writer’s journey.

A Writer’s Life: Joy

Writer, what makes you joyful? Like, singing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs joyful? So joyful that you just want to put on some crazy music and dance in your kitchen?

Do you know?

I actually had to think pretty hard to figure out what it was that made me that joyful. Spending quality time with people I love, flowers, music, moments when I am working on something I know is part of my soul and my purpose, fixing a plot hole, discovering a character; all of these are things that spark that kind of joy for me. And that kind of joy feeds my creativity and gives me the energy to do what I love with my whole heart.

So what about the moments when joy is hard to find and nothing seems to be going right?

Joy

Embracing joy is a necessary part of life. Without it, daily chores, schedules, and meetings become a drudge and nothing is life-giving anymore.

But it has taken me a long time to understand the rather nebulous idea of ‘joy’.

Because we’re supposed to have joy in every circumstance and season of our life, right? But for me, it’s always been hard to feel joyful when I am sucked down with too much work, broke, and struggling to find a job to add more onto my workload just so I can pay bills. It was hard to be joyful in the midst of a nasty breakup. It was hard to be joyful in the midst of a creative desert and a toxic workplace.

Joy sparks creativity. Without it, you may find your ideas withering to ash and your brilliant brain switching from explorer to autopilot.

If joy is so important, especially to creativity, how are we supposed to write when joy seems unattainable?

How To Make It Happen

Unfortunately, if joy is connected to circumstances and is, in fact, that fuzzy happy feeling curled just beneath your heart, it’s going to come and go, and more often than not, it’s going to go.

A little discouraging, right?

Unless you step back and realize that joy is not always going to be a feeling. Sometimes, yes, joy is a feeling and a very nice one. But sometimes—the bad times—joy is and will always be a choice. A choice to see the good where the bad is trying to blot it out. A choice to love what you do when you only have an hour or two a day—or week—to do it. A choice to focus on what is good in your life and to walk through the bad without drowning in it.

And yes, I realize that it’s very hard to do. I am still learning myself, and there are days that I crash and burn.

But somehow, I have always managed to pick myself up again. I do it with two truths, three tricks, and one spark of gratitude.

Truth #1

When life is rough, schedules are overloaded, and you are overwhelmed, joy becomes more of a choice than a feeling. And sometimes, that choice means smiling with gritted teeth and snapping a list of all the things you are thankful for instead of everything wrong in your life.

It’s not pretty. It’s not flowers and roses. Sometimes it’s crying on the bathroom floor until you’re ready to breathe again, smiling, and find five things to be grateful for amidst the mess—even if those five things are toilet paper, food in your fridge, that you have space to cry, books, and a story that you still love despite the way it’s driving you crazy.

Truth #2

You can’t find joy when you’re living on autopilot. I am the worst at this. When things are rough, I hit autopilot hard, and the goals I have consist solely of getting through the day and moving on to tomorrow.

And sometimes, that’s just life.

In the midst of a breakup, a bad situation at work, or a period of grief, sometimes autopilot is the best we can do, and—for a time—it’s the best thing for us.

But it’s hard to find joy on autopilot, and it’s even harder to be creative and embrace your stories there. Eventually, you’ve got to flick off the autopilot and start living again.

Three Tricks

  1. Find what you love. Find something that soothes your soul when everything else is going haywire. When I was struggling in a job environment that zapped my joy and energy and left me crying on the drive home, I did yoga. Obsessively. That hour before I went to work became the time when I chose joy and filled myself up for the day ahead. It centered me, reminded me that I had a life outside of this job and that I had some control over myself. Getting up that much earlier was hard, of course, but it helped me choose joy instead of discouragement.
  2. Appreciate what you have. Practice gratitude. Yes, there are hard things, and yes, your time is limited for what you love, but there will always be things to be grateful for. Make a list. Have a journal with pages of pages that begin with simply, ‘tell me something good.’ Choose gratitude instead of complaining.
  3. Get out of the rut. If a job is toxic, start looking for something else. If a relationship is destroying you, seek counseling and considering ending it. If things just need to be the way they are right now, then switch up your other routines a bit. Go for a walk after dinner. Meet a friend for lunch. Get up a little early to write or do yoga. 

One Spark Of Gratitude

Writer, you are alive. You have the world ahead of you, your life at your feet, and you are not alone.

So be thankful. Make lists, come up with something to be thankful for every time you have a cup of coffee or start your car, or just tell someone in your life how much their support and love mean to you.

Find something. Something that you love, something that is beautiful and meaningful about today. Something that you can be thankful for and find joy in. Embrace it. Pause for just a minute to enjoy it.

Then pause again, in the midst of your rushed writing session. Take a minute to appreciate that you, you, get to write this story. You have the opportunity to expand your imagination and put it to good use. You are a writer.

Be thankful for that.

Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.

What is joyful in your life right now? What are you struggling to find joy in? Tell me about it in the comments, and stay tuned for next week, when we will be discussing discouragement and how it affects a writer’s ability to actually write.

A Writer’s Life: Comparison

Have you ever heard the saying, “Comparison is the thief of joy”?

If so, you’re not the only one. I’ve heard that saying a hundred different places, and it always rings true. However, I would like to take it a step further and say that comparison is the thief of creativity.

Our stories are very special pieces of our hearts. When we’re focused and happy, they flow right from our souls, and they occupy their own spot in our hearts. But, if we’re more focused on someone else’s story and whether it’s better—or worse—than our own, we’re neglecting the story we’ve been entrusted with—and the characters that belong to us are the ones to suffer for it.

Comparison

Comparison is hard to catch in the beginning. I mean, who hasn’t read an amazing book—published or unpublished—and thought, “Wow! I wish I could write like that.”

In some ways, this thought—if directed properly—can be a good thing. It can be an inspiration to work harder, to develop our stories and take them to a new level.

The trouble comes when we let it grow past that point.

Comparison happens when you’re focused on competing instead of collaborating.

Once it becomes a competition—a desire to do better than the other person or the crushing realization that you’ll never ‘write like they do’—it becomes toxic. The kind of toxic that will kill your story, drain your creativity, and leave you defeated and jealous. Never a good state to find yourself in.

How To Make It Happen

Fortunately, as with all the other thoughts in our head, we can choose not to let comparison or jealousy take root. Once it has taken root, it’s much harder to get rid of, of course, but we still have the power to dig it out of our minds and choose another approach.

When I have trouble with this, I root it out with two truths, three tricks, and a moment of humility.

Truth #1

You are not in competition. Writing doesn’t work like that. As many writers as there are in the world, there are more readers. And readers who are looking for new material. A book can only be read so many times before its readers start searching for a new adventure that is similar to the one they loved so much—maybe yours.

Truth #2

You’re not supposed to ‘write like they do’. Why should you? You’re not them!

Writer, you have your own unique style. A story no one else is going to tell. A way of communicating that is only yours. Why would you damage that and risk marring it by trying to be someone else? We already have one of them. Now we need one of you.

Three Tricks

  1. Worry less about the results and more about being the best you can be. Growing as a person and a writer takes time. You can’t rush it, and you can’t skip past it. The only way to grow is by solid hard work and dedication to your craft. Comparing yourself to someone else won’t help you grow—it may even hold you back—and your journey is long enough. Dump what doesn’t drive you forward, and you’ll find the journey much easier.
  2. Embrace your story—without undermining someone else’s. Find what you love about your own characters, your plot, and your dialogue. Embrace it. Revel in it. Then learn to appreciate what others have without holding it up besides your own work to see how they compare.
  3. Find what’s beautiful in your story—and what needs a little watering. We all have places we can grow, and if you’re busy working on your own weaknesses and strengthening your own story, you won’t have time to worry about what someone else is writing—and you’ll also find a lot of joy in your own work at the same time!

A Moment Of Humility

It took me years to realize that having humility didn’t mean thinking less of myself. It didn’t mean believing that everyone was better than I was or that I had much less chance of succeeding than they did.

What I should have realized all along was that humility meant being able to rejoice in their success and to applaud their beauty without questioning my own.

Maybe their story does blow you away. Maybe their characters do enchant you. Maybe their grasp of ambiance or prose takes your breath away. Rejoice in that. Tell them. Believe me, everyone is struggling in their own way and everyone needs the boost of an honest compliment now and then.

Then take a step back and realize that you have your own gifts to offer, your own stories to craft. Their success does not threaten your own. So stay in your lane, keep your stories close to your heart, and don’t be afraid to celebrate with someone else. It costs nothing to rejoice with someone who needs it.

Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.

How do you block our comparison in your own writing journey? Tell me about it in the comments! And stay tuned for next week, when we will be discussing joy and how to find it in the midst of a crushing schedule.

A Writer’s Life: Doubt

Have you ever questioned whether you were a real writer or not?

I have.

I think every true writer has at one time or another. Poor reviews, harsh critiques, and even harsher rejections take their toll, but beyond these, I think there is an innate whisper is every writer’s mind that suggests—just suggests mind—that we have no right to the title that we claim. As if there were a warden at the door, waiting to turn us away, or a master craftsman somewhere who’s going to look at our work, shake his head, and send us off.

How ridiculous.

Doubt

Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how ridiculous these fantasies are—we all struggle with them. I would venture to guess that even the most seasoned among us, the writers who have been working for years, still pause with these kinds of thoughts at one time or another.

Doubt will kill your story faster than anything else. If you let it.

The trouble is, these thoughts aren’t innocent, and they aren’t easy to ignore. I couldn’t begin to guess—nor do I want to—how many books doubt has killed over the years. It becomes an obsession and sucks the life out of even the most steadfast writer’s creativity.

Writers, it is time for this to stop.

How To Make It Happen

I have fallen into this pit too many times to count—enough that I’ve learned to be proactive in my battle against it. I don’t laugh or make disparaging comments about my writing, for instance. I’ve seen many writers do this, and who knows, maybe for them it’s harmless.

For me, it never is. I may not feel it at the moment, but it’ll sting me later. And I’m just not willing to take it anymore, especially not from myself.

Since doubt has been something I’ve struggled with so much, it’s now something that I know how to counter quickly and—most of the time—effectively.

I do it with two truths, three tricks, and one reckless bit of optimism.

Truth #1

No one is a master in this craft. No one.

Not Stephen King, not J.K. Rowling, not even Tolkien himself reached that fabled level of mastery. We are all apprentices with more to learn, more to explore and discover, and places in our craft where we’re weak.

Writer, that should be encouraging.

We’re all on our own journey, all learning, and all developing the skills necessary for this craft. Rejections, bad reviews, and failures are only steps on the way, and if you learn to see them like that, you’ll struggle so much less with self-doubt.

Truth #2

There is no test to pass. No interview. No doorkeeper.

I think that’s what I love about this job the most. No man in a suit and expensive tie gets to tell me that I’m ‘not good enough’ to keep going, and there’s no committee to tell me that I didn’t flesh out this character properly, so thus I am hopeless and won’t be allowed to come back.

I decide how proficient I am by how much I practice and strive to learn. And there is no mistake so awful that I can’t decide to pick myself back up and try again.

Three Tricks

  1. Practice telling people that you’re a writer—without adding a modifier at the end. No one needs an explanation about how you’ve never been published and the book you’re writing isn’t that good and you just started because you like it . . . No. You’re a writer. You don’t have to explain your journey to anyone or justify it to anyone. Especially yourself.
  2. Be too busy writing to question whether you’re actually a writer. Seriously. Who cares about whether you measure up to an imagined set of standards? Why waste the energy trying to decide if ‘you’re a writer’? Go write.
  3. Quit the comparison game. I’m going to be talking about this one a bit more extensively next week, but it bears talking about here too. Someone else’s success does not damage yours. Someone else’s finished manuscript does not threaten your growth or diminish it. Stay in your lane, celebrate with other writers and rejoice in their success, then go back to working toward your own.

One Reckless Bit Of Optimism

Can you imagine the things you could accomplish in your life if you had no doubts—none at all—that you would succeed?

You would make mistakes, you would make a mess, and you would fail so, so many times.

But you would be unstoppable. And for every failure, there would be a success. Never once would you have to tell someone, “I gave up.”

So take a deep breath and allow yourself one reckless bit of optimism. Allow yourself to believe that, no matter the obstacles, no matter the amount of work it will take, you will make it. And not only will you make it, but you’ll grow beyond what you ever thought possible. Allow yourself to dream, to be so confident that it’s almost ridiculous. Then hold onto that hope, cultivate it, and keep it close.

You’ll be glad to have it down the road, I promise.

Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.

Have you struggled with doubt as a writer? Are there ways you’ve been fighting against it, or has it been getting you down lately? Tell me about it in the comments! And stay tuned for next week, when we will be going deeper into comparison and how quickly it can steal the joy out of writing.

A Writer’s Life: Perfectionism

Have you ever fixed—and deleted—the same sentence a twenty different times and still felt like you just . . . didn’t get it?

Me too.

It happens to me all the time. So does staring at one word for so long that it ceases to look like a real word and becomes an abomination against humanity and therefore must be destroyed.

Yeah.

Those are bad days.

Perfectionism

The frustrating thing about perfectionism is that is stems from a legitimate source. We want our stories to be the best that they can be, to catch the vision in our heads and portray it perfectly for the reader. We have so much detail, beauty, and downright cool stuff in our stories that doesn’t always make it onto the page on the first try, so why not edit until you get it right?

The trouble is, perfectionism, especially in your first chapter and your first draft, is so much more toxic than people admit.

In its toxic state, it fixates on the problem in a single chapter, or sentence, and immobilizes the writer from moving forward until that particular place is ‘perfect’.

Meanwhile, the remainder of the book molders away, untouched and unwritten.

How To Make It Happen

Writers, we’ve all been there. Whether you’re a seasoned writer or a beginner with a lot of vision and hope ahead of you, we all get caught in this trap from time to time. I did just recently and delayed the progress of my sixth book by at least a month because of it.

Ouch.

But, thankfully, I’ve gotten past it. Again. And I will continue to get past it in the future because I’m determined to be a writer who finishes my projects, not who gets trapped by perfectionism.

I do it with two truths, three tricks, and one wild moment of freedom.

Truth #1

You will never get it exactly right.

It took me so long to be okay with this. The vision in my head of my stories is full of glorious detail, heart-rending emotion, and background music for the full effect.

I cannot get that onto the page. Unfortunately.

What I can get onto the page is enough to guide the reader’s imagination. To let them fill in the blanks and see the story through their own eyes. All too often, writers don’t put enough faith in a reader’s imagination, and the result is panic and perfectionism because they can’t get that perfect vision onto the page.

Truth #2

No one is going to look at that sentence as long as you will.

Have you ever paused to really realize this? Writers obsess over their sentences, but readers flash through them with barely a pause.

Yes, a poorly written sentence will jerk the reader out of the story, but more often than not, a reader isn’t going to notice whether you used said or muttered—or cringe half as much as you do about the word ‘walked’. (Yes, that word makes me cringe. Don’t laugh.)

So let it go.

Three Tricks

  1. Don’t edit along the way. Let your story flow, and worry about the edits later. The most important thing—especially in the first stages of a draft—is to get the story on paper. To let your characters breathe. Worry about the rest later.
  2. Have a catchphrase. Something to chant to yourself when a less-than-perfect chapter is behind you and you’re being tempted to go back and change everything. When I start having intrusive thoughts and struggling with perfectionism, I either tell myself that it’s fine and I’ll fix it later, or I simply say, “Sorry, I can’t actually hear you.” Don’t laugh. It totally works.
  3. Plan for a second draft. Know that you’re going to come back later and fix the mess you’ve left behind—and that you’ll be able to do that then because of the work you’re doing now. Writing takes persistence, it takes time, and it definitely, definitely takes a lot of rewrites. Save it for later and keep going now.

One Wild Moment Of Freedom

Perfectionism is a trap, and it still makes me cringe to think of how many beautiful stories and brilliant, thought-provoking books that it has swallowed completely.

Don’t let that be you.

Allow yourself to be wrong. Allow imperfection. Allow mistakes. Allow the mess. Without these, your creativity will shrivel and die.

So grit your teeth, allow the chapter you’ve been editing obsessively to be ‘good enough’, and move past it. Allow yourself one wild moment of freedom and see what comes of it. You never know . . . the result may be a completed book.

Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.

Have you struggled with perfectionism in the past? How did you work through it? Tell me about it in the comments! And stay tuned for next week, when we will be discussing doubt and how it can drain the life from your story.