If someone told me this when I was starting my writing career, I would probably have a dozen books written by now. Instead, I spent years feeling like my writing was inferior and in turn, procrastinating the stories I wanted to write. But, in recent months, I’ve learned something and I think it might help you to hear it. This is what anyone who wants to write a book should know.
You will almost certainly hold yourself back in some way because it’s in our nature as humans to criticize ourselves and our work harshly. And though this can be somewhat annoying, I think it also has its benefits. This behavior that leaves us rewriting the same sentence 100 times is also what pushes us to strive for our best. We are hard on ourselves because we want to do great things and we know we can do great things. Unfortunately, this can have the opposite effect and paralyze us into doing nothing for fear of not being good enough.
I’ve been ‘working’ on my novel for three years now and have made more progress in the last month than I have in the rest of that time—and that’s because I’ve learned these things now. I always thought everything, and I mean everything, had to be perfect.
I kept telling myself excuses as to why I couldn’t write like:
- no one will like it
- it’s not the right time
- I need to be in the right mindset
- I am stuck on this chapter
- this doesn’t sound good
But, let me tell you…the first draft is not supposed to be good. It won’t make sense, it will be full of notes and mistakes and overused words and that’s how it’s supposed to be. It’s part of the process.
All you need to do is write what you think should happen without worrying about how it sounds or if it’s good enough.
This is where so many writers (myself included) get stuck, give up, or put the rest away for some other day when they can write the perfect sentence again and again and again.
But, if you try to make every sentence perfect, you’ll only become frustrated and defeated. You just need to write. And, once you have your first draft, no matter how bad it is, rejoice in knowing you’ve crossed a hurdle so many others fall over.
So, if you are writing a book or want to write a book, please understand that there will never be a perfect first draft. That’s why it’s the first draft—you will make changes and fix mistakes and rewrite entire chapters.
But, if you let yourself focus on perfection, you’ll never end up with a first draft that can be fixed, you’ll just end up with nothing.
And, I understand why we writers want so badly for our story to be perfect. We desire to write the story we’ve worked up in our heads and that has become a part of us. And, if it’s not perfect, it won’t sell well or people won’t read it or it will get bad reviews. We carry these stories so close to our hearts and want to do them justice, but keeping them locked in our minds isn’t the way to go.
Let yourself write the stories you want to tell. Relax in knowing that you can fix whatever you feel isn’t exactly ‘right’, and move on to the next sentence. Keep writing so you can break through the barrier between yourself and your first draft.
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