If You're a Writer, Why Don't You Ever Write?

If You're a Writer, Why Don't You Ever Write?
"Writer's Block" by alexkerhead is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Putting words on a page seems like it should be a relatively straightforward task. But if you’ve ever spoken to a writer, you’ve almost certainly heard many stories of woe. Many aspiring (or otherwise) writers find it an almost herculean task just to put words on a page. Let alone publishing that writing out into the world for others to read.

And it’s easy to empathize with the fear. Hitting publish without an audience makes you come face to face with the fact that the world pretty much doesn’t care at all about you or what you’ve written. Building an audience from zero is tough which leads many would-be writers to refuse to tarnish your own self image by pressing the publish button or even putting less than perfect words on the blank page. It sucks to put something out into the world to resounding indifference but that’s what you’re almost guaranteed to get so find a way to deal with it besides avoidance.

If actually being a writer is more important to you than maintaining the fantasy the you could be a great writer if you really tried there’s no other way out than through putting words on a page and publishing them. No matter how much you tell yourself that you’re actually just a “perfectionist”, the truth is that you’re probably more afraid of shattering your self image as an intelligent person than anything else. If you really want to be a writer you have to kill your ego, or at least lock it in another room long enough to write some stuff down and hit publish.

It bears repeating the truism that the only way to create good art is to just get started create a ton of less than great art first. Julian Shapiro calls this the "Creativity Faucet". You won't reach success by trying to polish your first piece into a mind-blowing success, especially when you’re starting with no audience. You need to be taking as many shots on goal as possible, which means you keep writing and keep hitting publish (Though you don't need to publish everything you write, I certainly don't). The good news is no one will remember the bad stuff you made when no one was paying attention.

When you’re starting out it’s more important to put out 100 blog posts of good enough quality than 5 posts of pretty good quality. Both in terms of continuing to move creatively and in terms of the modern world. There are a few people that can do the CGP Grey Style-Drop a great video every few months- but while it is important that you aren’t putting out trash, that kind of approach can be destructive when you’re starting out. You need to put in the reps before you can focus on perfection. You’re not good enough to be that picky. You need to stay in motion and keep writing.

Did Michael Jordan just sit in a room fantasizing about being a great basketball player and reading every strategy book about basketball while never actually getting on the court and taking a jumpshot? No. He worked day after day, playing basketball every day for years. This is an incredibly obvious statement but when it comes to writing many want-to-be writers seem to mix up reading about writing, strategy, etc. with actually doing the writing. If you don’t actually do any writing out of fear to protect your ego, you’re not writer, you’re just lying to yourself to keep your ego's dream alive.

Yeah it’s scary, and you’re opening yourself up to failure, but it’s the only way to the other side. So if you want to be a writer stop procrastinating to protect your self image and put some words on the page. You’ll be glad you did when you’re on the other side.