Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Why You Should Disregard the "Mess-Free" Writing Journey


The other day while I was at work (I'm a nanny for an 18-month old), I thought it would be fun to do a craft with the baby. I got everything set up to do a mess-free painting. It seemed perfect; you put a piece of paper in a bag, squeeze a few colors of paint inside, zip it up, and let the child paint without getting paint on their fingers. No mess = no problems!
Or so I thought.
The baby wanted absolutely nothing to do with the bag. He poked at the paint, tried to open the bag, and then promptly pushed everything off of his high chair tray and asked to get down. Apparently my perfect mess-free craft wasn't as perfect as I thought.
Cue the comparison to writing.
For a long time, I thought writing was this perfect system. Simple and mess-free, like this:
But, as I've learned from my crazy writing journey, it turns out that the path to a career in writing is not mess-free. It's more like this:
I think a lot of writers struggle with having a messy writing journey because the mess-free version is viewed as the ideal, "normal" path. I've struggled with being ashamed of the mistakes I've made for years because everywhere I look I'm told you write the book, edit the book, and publish the book. Clean and simple.
But what about the plot bunnies? The new ideas and unfinished works? The ten-thousand rewrites and scene changes? The unending rounds of edits? The eager first query letter that wasn't ready to be sent?
It's taken me a long time, but I've finally learned that having a messy writing journey isn't something to ashamed of, but proud of! Sure, I'm pretty embarrassed by some of my early drafts and query letters, but those mistakes helped me learn how to be better.
Making messes and mistakes can teach you a lot of things, such as:

1. How to reject perfection. The more you edit and rewrite, the more you understand just how impossible perfection really is. Once you understand that and stop focusing on making your book perfect, you can focus on the more important aspects of writing!
2. Patience. I have been writing my first book for three years, you guys. I know others who have been working on their first books for even longer! I think this one speaks for itself.
3. How to work through writer's block. We all know that editing isn't as simple as it appears. Going through round after round and rewrite after rewrite slowly teaches you how to overcome things like writer's block, lack of motivation, etc.
4. To be yourself. When you have a messy writing journey, it can be tempting to compare yourself with others. But sometimes when you do, you'll find that lots of other people have messy writing journeys, too! Having that information is really awesome, and can help make you feel a lot better about your book as well as yourself.
5. Confidence. The more crazy the writing journey, the more confident the writer, I think. Not confident as in cocky, but confident as in assured. When you go off on tangents and make mistakes, you're allowing yourself to grow. You learn from your mistakes and failures, and ultimately can become more confident in yourself and your book!

It's easy to become blinded by the seemingly perfect mess-free writing journey everyone strives to have. But don't be fooled! It simply doesn't exist, and every writer has their share of embarrassing mistakes and things. So don't be ashamed! Your writing journey is yours. You can either be hindered by your mistakes, or learn from them.

3 comments:

  1. That diagram looks about right. I'm still somewhere in the first part and haven't quite got the the part of hating the book. Hating a few bits of it, thinking it's horribly written, but not hating it.

    This is a good reminder for me. Fairly recently I came across an article of how to write a book in three drafts. They said to write the second draft straight through from beginning to end. That's exactly what I'm not doing write now. And I don't have to. I can be as messy as I want.

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  3. Haha! Mess free writing? I don't think so! You've got a really good point here. It's not like you can really fully explore a book when it's "tucked into a bag" so to speak. If only it *did* work that way... ;)
    Aidyl from Noveltea

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