With some of the money I got for Christmas last year, I bought two bright red Moleskine journals. I keep the little one with me at all times for notes and ideas. The big one is still blank. I had a couple ideas on what to write in it, but nothing seemed good enough. Last week I read this from Natalie Goldberg and realized my problem,
“Sometimes people buy expensive hardcover journals. They are bulky and heavy, and because they are fancy, you are compelled to write something good. Instead you should feel that you have permission to write the worst junk in the world and it would be ok. Give yourself a lot of space in which to explore writing. A cheap spiral notebook lets you feel that you can fill it quickly and afford another.”
I was “compelled to write something good” but nothing good was coming. I was paralyzed by the enemy of perfection.
When we write, we want it to be good. Really good. Life-changing not just for us but for anyone who reads it. But often this pressure keeps us from writing anything.
Every book I’ve read about writing says the best way to become a better writer is to write. Write without correcting spelling or grammar. Write way more than you’ll ever publish. Just write.
You become a better writer through the process of getting the words on paper (or screen). Anne Lamott writes, “A friend of mine says that the first draft is the down draft—you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft—you fix it up.” Don’t worry about getting it all right during the writing process. That comes in step two. And step three is hire an editor, and it will be her job to get it as close to perfect as possible.
“Writers who throw their scraps away are leaving a better writer behind, and that was the point, wasn’t it?” Douglas Wilson
Take the pressure off yourself today. Buy a few cheap notebooks. Your writing doesn’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be perfect. But you’ll get better the more your write. And that really is the point.
More enemies of good writing: