Sometimes I feel a little scared to write. The first word is always the hardest – putting pen to paper instils a sense of responsibility and vulnerability. The responsibility stems from my urge to do my thoughts and ideas justice. The vulnerability comes from the fear of failure, a feeling that I can’t and won’t ever be able to express my ideas properly through writing. A fear that my writing won’t ever be good enough, no matter how hard I try. Even when I write for myself, I judge my abilities, often before I even start the process.
After a stressful day, I often feel the urge to jot down all my thoughts in a journal. I craft my story in my head and even analyse and rewrite parts in an attempt to better understand why I feel so frustrated. I need to make perfect sense of the world around me and to word that as perfectly as possible. It’s an intense process, and many of my personal epiphanies occur this way. Most of the time, however, I don’t transfer my thoughts onto the page. When I have a blank page on my desk and my pen in my hand, suddenly all my desire to write evaporates.
The first word is always the hardest. When I was in high school, I researched different short story techniques for my major work. Freewriting caught my eye, and I decided to give it a go. It’s a process in which you write about anything you want. The resulting piece doesn’t have to be coherent as it’s essentially a combination of everything and anything that pops into your head. The point is to write intensely for a short period of time without judging your own work. It might seem like a low-stress, fun way of improving my writing (and in some ways it was) but I felt incredibly uncomfortable doing it. None of the characters, settings or descriptions sounded right. Yet this exercise also played an important role in encouraging me to push my boundaries. After all, a piece of writing needs to be edited to improve, let alone become good, and without something to edit in the first place, there can be no improvements.
I think it’s incredibly important to strive for improvement rather than perfection. Perfection is a distant, unattainable goal, whereas improvement is the culmination of small, manageable steps. Perfection deters, improvement encourages. For a long while till recently, I didn’t write anything that I didn’t have to. I certainly didn’t write anything for myself. I just didn’t have the will or the desire to push past the activation energy required, particularly if I set the bar so high that I needed to create amazing work on the first try.
That’s why today I need to write this and hit ‘publish’. If I keep waiting for the perfect moment to write down the perfect words, I’ll never write anything. And I want to write. I want to have the ability to express the things I want and need to express in life. And so from this moment onwards, I’m going to do my very best to muster the courage I need to write that first word. I no longer seek perfection; instead, I have set personal improvement as my benchmark.
- Write more regularly (e.g. via blogging, journalling, creating short stories).
- Write more about the things I find interesting and write outside of my assigned tasks.
- Read more outside of my comfort zone.