Writing Without Fear

I’ve come to realise that a writer can get writer’s block when they focus too much on what readers will think of their writing. When trying to create a flawless text that readers will like, there is so much concentration on every minute detail instead of writing freely and letting creativity flow.

A kind of self-fulfilling prophecy happens: the more fear about creating bad writing, the more bad writing is created. Every sentence typed feels derivative and deficient. After typing a few sentences, they are quickly deleted. Before one knows it, a writer has been working for an hour with only a blank page to show for it.

The moral of the story: forget about the reader when writing. Forget about good or bad. That way we can write without fear.

Nagging feeling
But what about that nagging feeling – what I’m writing is really bad? Some people take comfort in Ernest Hemingway’s quote:

“The first draft of anything is shit.”

(Screen) writing guru Robert McKee puts it a different way:

“Taste and experience tell him that 90 percent of everything he writes, regardless of his genius, is mediocre at best. In his patient search for quality, he must create far more material than he can use, then destroy it.”

I personally prefer the more positive approach of playwright August Wilson:

“You can make no mistakes, but anything you write can be made better.”

So, just type till your heart’s content. Be critical later. Otherwise all those stories in your head will never be told.



7 thoughts on “Writing Without Fear

  1. August Wilson says it best. Great quote, I’m going to remember that one. It’s exactly what Fred Lybrand’s writing course is talking about (http://www.advanced-writing-resources.com), learning by writing is key, and he’s taught me that the first draft of what you write is okay, and when you get feedback, you can improve it. This philosophy (my dad’s and Wilson’s) is especially great when it comes to how to teach kids to write, so this way they aren’t petrified to put pen to paper, and instead accept the reality that their first draft will be mediocre with lots of room for improvement. This totally removes fear from writing. I know it did for me when I was younger, and still does for the times I have to remind myself of it.

  2. I like August Wilson’s quote.

    The world has become so critical, and with it, writers, as well. Everyone feels the need to [over] analyze everything, thinking some arcane “mechanic” will magically elevate one’s text to instant bestseller status, and with it, the author to great fame and fortune.

    Have action on every page.

    Write for the reader.

    Write for yourself.

    Write to the story.

    Tell your whole story in the very first word.

    Remove all adverbs and adjectives. And while you’re at, some commas and conjunctions.

    Outline the hell out of your story first, and don’t even THINK of pantsing it.

    I say, ignore the chaff. Focus on the target. Write what and how you want, and simply do your best. Sure, study the craft, but after that, WRITE. There’s no substitute. Readers will come if you have something of interest–and it doesn’t even HAVE to be good. It doesn’t. Allow it to be bad…but just write. Define “good”! I’ve read some increadbly well-written words that never went anywhere, and books I thought were terrible–others LOVED (and v.v.).

    Just DO it, Vanessa. Just write. :-]

  3. Reading one’s thoughts through someone else’s mind is always a bit disconcerting . . . but comforting nonetheless.

    “the more fear about creating bad writing, the more bad writing is created. Every sentence typed feels derivative and deficient.”

    You said what I feel every time I forget why I write; why I am a writer. Beauty happens in the imperfection of creating something flawed.

    Thank you,
    ~ C

  4. I agree completely! It’s impossible to please everyone — especially in a first draft — so you should write to please yourself!

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