A writer who is working on a story for the next issue of Arizona Wildlife Views told me he was facing writer’s block. “I don’t know how to overcome the obstacle of thinking I could have written this or that better,” he said.
His question got me thinking. I don’t know all the answers, but I’ll share some ideas here.
First, when you sit down to make that messy, wild, wonderful first draft, do anything you can to take fear out of the picture. The goal is to face that blank piece of paper with some energy you want to share. Maybe it’s curiosity or excitement, or maybe you’re angry; whatever it is, just let it flow onto the page. Get those fingers dancing.
Fear that you might say something wrong is the opposite of energy. It’s a black hole, sucking in writers with false logic. Fear says, “I won’t start typing so I can never say anything wrong.” True, but see how silly that is? Start typing anyway. Soon enough, you’ll see how much you can get right.
I also think, once the piece is published, don’t read it for a month or two. Sure, admire your byline. Give yourself a pat on the back for getting something published. Then, put it away. Because if you read it now, you’ll find words that can be rearranged. You’ll think that moving them around makes them better. But it generally doesn’t—it just makes them different.
Trust me: Words can always be rearranged. Say it this way, say it that way, shift the meaning, change the emphasis a degree or two … sentences are malleable. Playing with them is great fun. There’s no one right way to say something. Writing isn’t a science, it’s an art form, and no art form is perfect.
Frankly, “perfect” is not even a goal to reach for. I’m not even sure what “perfect” means, in terms of the written word. And I’m a perfectionist, so that’s saying something. But when it comes to writing, perfect isn’t the target. Accurate, yes. Well-said, certainly. True to your original vision, I hope. But perfect? Trying to get there isn’t useful, just painful.