Every now and then (and by that I mean all of this morning), I find myself in this frame of mind that won’t let me write. It isn’t writer’s block perse, because it isn’t that I strictly can’t write. It’s like I’ve overpowered my inspiration and burned away all my motivation, and I’m left in this place where I simply can’t appreciate anything I do. I write a sentence like, It was the worst possible scenario; Flix didn’t have any idea what to do, and he was rapidly running out of time, and in the proper context that sentence would be just fine. But when I’m running dry on motivation, a sentence like that feels dry, corny, and worthless, and no matter what I do I cannot find any way to improve it. I can sit for an hour and look at the same word, and still have no idea of what I’m doing wrong.
What am I doing wrong?
I puzzled over it for a long time, trying to find something that would help me get back into the flow so that I could actually feel what I was writting. Nothing worked. I cleaned. I played xbox. I sat and thought about it. I tried blog-trolling. I tried everything I could think of, and I was still sitting there like an idiot wondering how on earth I could write such bland, flavourless garbage.
And then I realized the problem. And it’s the same problem I struggle with a lot, though I don’t even realize it. I forget that I’m writting for myself. I forget that the audience doesn’t matter. I forget that they probably won’t even want to read my stuff if I don’t write for myself. I’m trying to be a perfectionist, and in realizing I can’t, I just become frusterated and get nowhere. And it IS very frusterating.
How to overcome it?
The problem with this perfectionism is that, to a degree, it isn’t a bad thing. You do have to cater to the audience sometimes. You do have to look for perfection in your work. But you have to know when to stop. You have to know when to say, that’s enough, it’s time to just live and let it be.
In the midst of my frusteration, I picked up a book and began reading. It’s an old book (old to me), and one of the best. I read one sentence: When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton. And that was all I needed.
Because Tolkien, in all his brilliance, wrote not what he thought people wanted to read, but what he wanted to read. He wrote for himself. He wrote because he loved it, because he loved the universe that he created. There is nothing especially magnificent about his writing (other than the simple fact that it is BRILLAINT); the reason it is so fantastic, the reason people the world round respect him for his work, the reason that the end result was so amazing, is simply that he wasn’t trying to be perfect. He wasn’t dwelling on imperfections.
After reading the first sentence in the book, and then going on to grab a few more sentences, I went back to my computer to compare what I had just written only a few minutes before with what I’d just read, trying to determine the difference in my own acceptance. And the truth of the matter is that there really wasn’t much difference. What I wrote was pretty sparse and needed some filling out, but it was just fine when I approached it with a mindset that allowed me to accept it.
So here is my word for the day: Acceptance—of self, and of my work. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be me.