Let’s talk about the whole Write Every Day thing. You’ve probably heard this instruction at some point; it’s supposed to be what all ‘good’ writers do. Make some time, every day, to work on your project, even for only fifteen minutes. Sound reasonable.
Truth. Laura has never, ever managed to do this consistently. She has tried, many times, and failed, many times. There is always something that gets in the way: a cold, a trip, a bad mood, a baby. Each time, the failure has left her feeling like, well, a failure.
It can be helpful to have a commitment to write daily. It can also be helpful to give yourself permission not to. Not all days look the same. There is a balance to strike between discipline and flexibility, and it’s different for everyone. Give yourself permission to experiment.
Beating yourself up over not getting your writing done takes time and energy. It is easy to get into the ‘why bother’ cycle, as in, I’m not managing to do this like I’m supposed to be doing it, so why bother at all? Carrying around the weight of angry voices, listening them to the constant hum of their reprimands, does not make your writing any easier. If anything, the opposite.
What if you give yourself permission to be imperfect? What happens if you accept that there is, and likely always will be, a gap between who you are right now and your perfect version of you? Your ideas on paper will be just a little less bright and shiny than they are in your head – even the acclaimed writer Ta-Nehisi Coates admits that, at best, his work is 70% of what he hopes it might be. This is okay, to be less than perfect.
Our suggestion is this: when it comes to getting your writing done, make a commitment you think you can achieve. If you meet it easily, stretch it. If you don’t, ask why. This is fundamental, the asking why. If you are not advancing your writing project, there is a reason there, and, no, it is not that you are a useless human being who can’t get their act together. Dig for it.
If it is because you don’t know where to start, start somewhere. If it is because you’re afraid you’re doing it ‘wrong,’ do it that way til you figure out how to do it ‘right.’
If it is because of the gap between what you are producing and the vision of perfection in your head, cut yourself some slack. Accept that the perfect article you can see in your mind’s eye will never get you anywhere unless it gets on paper first. Tell that committee in your head that is judging each statement and questioning each fact to just slow down already and let you get the words down; you’ll address their concerns later.
Have you ever played a musical instrument, studied dance, or tried to pick up a new skill? Laura played the violin as a child, and her grandmother was a pianist. Her grandmother used to tell her, “They say that practice makes perfect, but that’s not true.” It’s not? What Mommom said, time and again, was, “Practice makes better.”
What if you try this as a goal? Just get better. Whether it is your writing itself, or your commitment to your writing, make it good enough. Good enough is perfect.
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