Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go. ~ E. L. Doctorow

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wanted: A Set of Balls

I found this anecdote in a tiny book filled with wisdom from Mister Rogers.

A young apprentice applied to a master carpenter for a job.  The older man asked him, “Do you know your trade?”

“Yes, sir!” the young man replied proudly. 

“Have you ever made a mistake?” the older man inquired.

“No, sir!” the young man answered, feeling certain he would get the job.

“Then there’s no way I’m going to hire you.” said the master carpenter, “because when you make one you won’t know how to fix it.”


Mistakes.  Everyone makes them.  I'm bogged down with them every day.  
Mistakes are a given in a first draft.  
So, explain to me why I push my writing assignments off in fear of handing in something horrifying, embarrassing and badly written.  

  
 
The process starts off encouraging.  The minute the assignment is posted my mind begins creating characters, designing settings and plotting.  Then, the fear creeps up.  I wait and wait and wait until the very last minute to scribble everything down.  The fear is tightening its grip around my fingers.  Then, I race the clock to revise.  The fear is in control now.  Finally, posting it with no time to spare, actually twenty minutes late. 

I’m no a fool.  I know it's my fault for letting the fear take over.  It needs to stop.  The twisting of mind and emotion will have me in a straight jacket in a matter of months. 

What I need to do is embrace my writing when it’s good.  Get over the fact that mistakes will blemish my first draft.  Have confidence my peers will point out my inconsistencies, lack of detail, weak sentences, unbelievable characters, etc.  Then take the time to absorb all the feedback and fix the mistakes.  Talent helps, but revisions are the true path to greatness.    

Mistakes teach you to write stronger; teach you to edit better.  Fearlessness gets the words on the page.  A gun to the head is a reliable kick in the pants. 

For the times mental discipline, mantras and Mister Rogers fails, a talisman could help me push past barriers.  Perhaps, the brass balls adornment for trucks.  I’d attach those bad boys to my laptop.  A daily reminder of all the talent and fearlessness I possess.  Or I could just shut up and write.           

When everything else fails, a little bit of liquid courage can’t hurt.  So, I raise my shot glass of golden goodness to confidence.  Fuck fear.  Bring on the literary acclaim.    

What’s been weighing on your mind lately?    

2 comments:

Anna said...

Brilliant. Time to get off my ass and write the damn short story even if it sucks.

Oh, I thought you were writing about me.

Michael Offutt said...

Laura...to what standard are you holding yourself to? Because, when I read J.K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyer (two enormous titans in the publishing industry) I think to myself there are tons of things that I see wrong with their writing. So that's proof that even on the shelf, it's not so much how good your writing is...it's what you're writing about that counts.

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