Lately it feels like that’s what this current WIP is turning out to be. I wrote the other day about how I had my first good writing day in a while but something I didn’t quite clarify was that “good” wasn’t necessarily referring to the actual writing itself. Yes, I gained clarity and yes, the words were flowing but that didn’t mean they weren’t garbage. They were and they are and the more I write the more I dread revisions because this puppy is going to need a lot of work. But what I’ve come to realize in my quest to write a first draft without obsessing over every word is that it’s not the words that matter. What matters is the story. And not whether or not it’s good but whether or not it’s there.
Through five books I’ve been the type of writer who would rather sit and wait than type something that wasn’t just right. I would spend an hour on just one paragraph trying to capture the perfect mood and the perfect word and the perfect rhythm. But perfect takes patience. Perfect takes forever. And perfect is just not worth pursuing in a first draft.
So this time I decided to try something different. I realized that the block I’d been experiencing with my current WIP wasn’t caused by some spontaneous loss of creativity but by my ever-present quest for perfection and if I was going to get back on track then I had to give it up. And not half-heartedly and not just for a day but absolutely. I had to give myself permission to write something awful, something cliche, something amateur. I had to give myself permission to fail.
So I’m trying to do just that. I’m sitting down every day, being present and being brave and I’m writing. Without trying to go back and edit what I did the day before, without agonizing over every word, and without constantly feeling inadequate. It’s a huge challenge but it’s one that I’ve taken on because I truly feel like if I can conquer this I’ll have conquered so much more than just my inner editor. Because giving myself permission to fail creatively isn’t just about writing, it’s about life. It’s about life and it’s about me. About forgiving me and loving me and trusting me. Trusting that even if my first attempt at something isn’t stellar that I can be strong enough to start over and that I can be strong enough to keep starting over until it is. Because that’s what it takes to make things good, to do things right. You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to finish.
I hate waiting. Another side effect of my constant need to be in control of absolutely everything all the time. But life doesn’t exactly work that way. Life doesn’t make room for you and your baggage, it doesn’t yield to your will, and it doesn’t bend to make your dreams come true. It doesn’t even believe in dreams. Which is why it likes to hurl those curve balls out of nowhere–your transmission going out, coming down with the flu, losing your job, apocalypse. But even though the universe may not make it easy to believe in dreams I still do. I have to. We all do. And there’s no shame in dreaming and there’s no shame in waiting.
There is no shame in being stuck by circumstance. That’s life–getting stuck. But life is also about finding your way back out, about taking every setback with a grain of salt and using it to propel you forward. Even if that step forward is slight, even if it’s apprehensive, the important thing is that we’re still moving forward. Always.
So I’m moving forward. I’m staying focused on the big picture and despite my circumstances I’m still planning, I’m still writing, and most importantly I’m still dreaming.
Sometimes I feel like I live in a constant state of fear, that singular emotion wafting from mild to crippling but never really going away for good. You can call it anxiety or you can just call it being human but I think we’re all learning to navigate in a world where the fear of failure dictates every move we make. Some moments I feel like I’m an expert at it but other moments I feel like I’ll never find a way out and as I get older, it gets harder and harder to operate on pure faith. Because the adult in me has responsibilities and the realist in me wants results, although the fear in me just wants to curl up and disappear.
But I don’t let myself. Because here is what I’ve learned about fear.
It. Is. Necessary.
I used to think that fear was inherently evil, that it was a liar, and that it was just keeping me from reaching my full potential. But here’s the truth–fear isn’t the road block between me and my goals, fear is the fuel to getting there.
Fear is the fuel that ignites our passions, it’s the key to living out our full potential. And when we learn to step into that fear, to let it push us, that’s when we become great. Here is my biggest fear–living a life without purpose. This means working at a job I hate, being isolated from family and friends, not being able to write every day, not reaching my full potential as a giver. There are people who live this way, who trudge through life without purpose, and seeing the way that misery clings to them, it terrifies me. So I combat it with lists and deadlines and ideas and if it weren’t for the intense fear behind every action, there would be no passion behind it either.
The fear is what drives me. The fear is what gets me out of bed every morning. The fear is what pushes me to keep going even though it could very easily be the thing that forces me to stop. And some days it does, but those are the days when I allow it to overwhelm me, when I forget that I’m in control. But the truth is that I am in control. I can choose to harness the fear or I can choose to let it harness me but it is my choice. MINE. Because the fear of failure will always be there but when I harness that fear for a purpose, my purpose, it’s no longer the thing holding me back. It’s no longer fear at all. It’s fuel.