Catching Fireflies

finding magic along the way

First drafts and caring less

I read a recent post on Chuck Wendig’s blog, Terrible Minds.  Another writer had stated that she suffered from extreme performance anxiety whenever she sat down to write.  We are talking full-fledged physical illness here.  His advice to her? Care Less.

I have to say that is some of the best advice on writing that I have ever heard.  Really.

If you approach the blank page with so much fear and anxiety that you wind up in a fetal position under your desk, sweating and shaking – Care Less.

If you find you cannot bear to write the first word because what if it is not the right word – Care Less.

If you worry and fret over each and every word to the point of physical pain and nausea simply because you are worried about what the reader will think – Care Less.

As many accomplished writers will tell you – all first drafts suck.  Simple as that.  Just like every child’s first attempt at playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on the piano or violin or trombone will suck.  Craftsmanship and skill comes later – after years of practice and in every subsequent revision.

The beauty of the first draft is in its mess.  You will write run on sentences, misplace modifiers, dangle participles.  Your characters will be flat, your villain stereotypical and your hero a pain in the ass.  Your plot will have holes, entire scenes will make you cringe on the first rewrite, and you will know that entire sections will be heading to the compost heap before you have even completed the task of writing them.

But…

That is what revision is for!  When writing the first draft of anything, you cannot get so invested in each and every word.  It will strangle your muse and bring your project to a grinding halt.  You must let your characters and your story arc frolic across the page and see what happens.  You must trust yourself enough to close your eyes and pour out every stupid thought in your head.  To try to stymie the flow will bring your creative juices to a trickle. And when that happens, you will never finish that first draft and you will hate the process and you will never know if you could ever actually write.

Read Chuck Wendig’s blog post for the straight poop on caring less. You need to care enough to show up and put the words down day after day, but if you find that the thought of writing even a post-it note makes you break out in hives, you have to start caring less… please.

14 Comments

  1. Well, I think it’s appropriate to say, “I couldn’t care less,” in regard to this post… ha ha! I actually don’t put much effort or stress or care into my writing – it almost always comes out easily and flows and I don’t kill myself trying to make it perfect. I revise when asked and do what is required and it doesn’t bother me at all. I love writing and all the components involved. I probably wouldn’t do it if it made me have a physical stress reaction.

    Your post makes me want to start an advice column, by the way, LOL!

    • 🙂 I think a lot of writers long to have the positive, healthy attitude you do toward writing. I never have the problems during the writing or revision phases – love the actual work. But the query letter and synopsis always feel like more work to me and not nearly as fun. I don’t know if I grind to a stop because I care too much or just because it no longer feels like a good time. I would read your advice column, by the way!!

  2. I have to actually remind myself of this one. Repeatedly. If we’re not writing just for the fun of it at some point, our readers aren’t going to be having any fun either, I figure.
    I think its so weird that I have to actually remind myself that I need to stop WORRYING, and care less. The human brain is so weird. 😉

    • We just care too much about the finished product. Chuck Wendig’s post really hit home for me – I get so wrapped up in the final book or story that I find myself paralyzed at the start, unable to write at all. I think that is where my procrastination stems from – fear. So I am trying to care less about the end and pay more attention to just the sentence or scene in front of me.

  3. I can’t imagine not caring at all about writing, but caring less makes sense when you need that distance.

    As far as performance anxiety–the exact opposite happened to me. When I quit writing a long time ago, I made myself physically ill. Writing again is the only cure that worked.

    • I know what you mean about feeling ill when you don’t write. I always feel like something major is missing and get very anxious – heart palpitations and all. Writing in all its forms grounds me and keeps me sane!

  4. Fantastic post, Cheryl 🙂 I sometimes get tied up in knots over my work and in the end it’s painful to write instead of the joy it used to be.

    Once I get like this I need to go back to why I started writing in the first place. I write because I love to write and that’s all it comes down to. If no one ever reads it – who cares? It’s in me and always will be – just do it for the love of it!
    🙂

    • Dianne – Great advice – just do it for the love of it! You cannot separate yourself from the urge to write. Once you are bitten by that bug, you can’t shake it. It is good to step back from the “publication” aspect of writing and just write for the sheer joy of it. I think that is where Chuck Wendig was coming from when he said we should care less. 🙂

  5. Kim, thank you so much for the pingback on your very brave post. 🙂

Trackbacks

  1. Mi Amor – My Passion | daphneshadows
  2. (Re) Writing Advice: Turning a First Draft Into a Second Draft « M. Giroux Stories
  3. Chuck Wendig « A Writer's Convenient Truth
  4. Summer-Spiration & Showing Up | Kim Koning | The Official Website
  5. Summer-Spiration & Showing Up | Kim Koning

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