Apr 14, 2008

The Perfectionist in your Head

Most of you have them—the internal voices in your head that say you’re messing up, that your writing is worthless. Sometimes, it makes you wonder why you even bother.

Most beginning writers worry about whether or not they have any talent. They wonder whether all the effort they put into their writing will be worth it. There’s only one way to find the answer—write.

If you want to be a good swimmer, you have to get in the water and swim. It’s the same with writing. If you want to grow as a writer, sit down and write. The more you write, the better you will become. Reading will also help. Once you begin to write, you will never read the same again. As I read, I’m constantly looking for interesting phrases, plot twists, catchy dialogue, and creative characters.

You can also talk with other writers, join critique groups, and attend conferences and workshops. But none of these will improve your writing as much as plenty of practice. Only through writing will you discover for yourself what your strengths and weaknesses are as a writer.

Most writers do their best work if they don’t worry about technical correctness as they write. Getting caught up in details can distract you and slow down your momentum. So, instead of trying to fix every little mistake as you write, focus on what’s most important—getting the words onto the page.

So, what do you do about those pesky voices in your head? Just write in spite of them. Over time, they will get quieter. They may pop up again unexpectedly, but if you keep on writing you will triumph in the end.


Keith Fisher said...

Great advice Kim. You are an inspiration.

Don said...

Absolutely true. I've given my internal editor a name and tell him to leave me alone. Most of the time he does.

On the rare occasion that he makes my fingers freeze and refuses to back down, I simply start typing the most awful garbage I can come up with. This annoys him so much that he finally leaves me in peace and I can get on with whatever it was I needed to write.

Danyelle Ferguson said...

Kim -

I love this post. You are so brave in talking about the pessimistic side of you vs your writing. After four years, I only just barely admitted my writing fears to my best writing buddy, Heather. She was astonished! She had no idea the fears and walls I create that keep me from completing my fiction novels (it's totally different for my non-fiction stuff. I don't seem to have any problems there).

The funny thing is that I get rave reviews on my fiction stuff. I always place in any contest I enter (at least for the past four years) and I get tons of people who ask me, Have you written the next chapter for such and such a book cause they are dying to read it. But I've actually found that even though the praise is fantastic and makes me feel good - it also makes me freeze up. What if they don't like the middle section or the end? What if I disappoint them? Oh, the pressure and stress all those thoughts create. So I'll put down that book and start working on something else.

It's taken me four years - yes, four years! - to finally face those fears and say, what the heck! Stand aside, I'm coming through!

So, to you, I say - You go, girl! You can do it! Just keep on writing!

Thanks for the post! BTW - love your blog. It's totally cute!

Josi said...

It's not only new writers that fear they have no talent and will never write anything of worth, it never goes away, but you're right, as you practice you don't hear that voice quite as loudly. Great post.

Kim Thompson said...

Thanks for the comments! I hate to hear that 'the voice' never goes away. I was looking forward to a reprieve.

Danyelle - I was thinking about your comment that you don't have a problem with your non-fiction stuff. I'm sure that's because non-fiction is what it is. It's facts and we write them. However, the fiction stuff comes from inside you, so it's much more personal.

From what I've read, you are an amazing writer. I'm glad you've decided it's time to just go for it. I hope it doesn't take me 4 years to get to that point. I don't think I'll last that long.

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