In order to survive as a creative, you must quickly learn that your first idea is not always your best idea. In fact, your first ten ideas are probably not your best idea.
It’s easy to get fixated on one idea and think it’s the only idea.
When I first started writing my book, it spanned about twenty years of history in this fantasy world that I created. I realized along the way that spanning this entire history was about as interesting as watching CSPN and that it was better to focus on one point in history rather than ALL OF THEM.
I took an amazing story structure workshop with Marc Acito, which taught me to pick up the pace of the story. And after about five drafts and taking some advice from Toku, I went from third person past tense to first person present tense. The book is now a little less like watching CSPAN and more like watching a sweet roller derby match.
I couldn’t have made these changes without the bigger picture. Without writing those first crappy drafts, I couldn’t see how long-winded and dull it was.
A while back I was doing work for a client, and my expectations were so high that for a while I couldn’t get anything done. I wanted so badly to do it perfectly that I felt like every word I wrote wrong. It was like my internal editor was on steroids. I could hardly think of a coherent thought or worthy idea, because I imagined how those words would be judged. When I did write something, it was so rigid that you may as well have asked a bureaucratic automaton to write it.
It was paralyzing.
Toku told me to pretend like I was already fired, like I had already disappointed the client and they dumped me like yesterday’s compost. So I played a little mind trick on myself. I told myself that I greatly disappointed a client and lost them. He told me to write like it was already a disaster.
Toku’s advice came after we watched Jonathan Krisel’s TED talk, “Doing it Wrong & Getting it Right.” Krisel directs the comedy skit show, Portlandia, and in his talk he explains how inviting mistake taught him some surprising lessons.
In one episode, a large painting accidentally falls off a wall in the middle of a scene. It wasn’t planned or written into the script.
Former Mayor Sam Adams, who cameos on the show, picks up the painting and places it on the wall, and the scene goes on as before. Rather than cutting and reshooting, Kriesel leaves it in the scene.
“Write it so you can change it.” This motto gets me through paralyzing hours at my computer, fearful that my words aren’t the right ones. I keep telling myself to write it so I could change it, and it keeps a blazing inferno roaring under my ass so I can keep moving.
If you want to find the real writer inside of you, let go of any expectations of what you think your writing should look like.
When I was in high school, I wanted to be a literary writer. But as I got older and my fiction developed, I started writing these unusual stories [hyperlink to Blue Room Gold Room]. Once I opened up to the idea that I was a different sort of writer than I imagined, then my work started moving in that direction.
You spend so much time looking for the perfect language that they’re not seeing the imperfect ideas. We’re so worried about pleasing people, getting an audience, stats, readership, that we’re blind to everything else. All these expectations stunt your growth, so that you can’t even discover who you are as a writer, a blogger, or a novelist.
Some of the best writing is unplanned and unexpected. You don’t know what’s going to go viral. You don’t know what millions of people will share with their friends. You don’t know any of it until you actually write it and put it out into the world.
Of course you should edit it. Of course the writing should be clean and well-written. Of course it should be your best work.
But if something is slightly off is there something wrong with that?
Don’t forget to view Krisel’s entire TED talk.