For the longest time (and I still struggle with this) I set up rules for myself that seriously impeded my writing process. I knew what I felt- what I wanted to convey. I could see stories and poems played out in my imagination like movies viewed through wax paper. I avoided cliches and melodrama. I avoided words I deemed not unique enough. I spent hours making sure that sentence rhythm and length varied, that I never ended a sentence on a preposition, or that I had cut out every adverb and excess word. Then, when I was done, I would reread my finished product and it would feel stiff and inaccessible.
Too often, I felt incapable of accessing the thoughts in my head I knew were worth expressing. About half way through college, a friend from my major told me to “unclench” enough times that it occurred to me that maybe I should. My problem wasn’t my rules. It was my inability to let them go. Realizing this was a pivotal moment in not just the quality of writing that I was capable of producing, but in being comfortable with my particular brand of oddity.
My rules proved to be great editing guidelines, but catastrophic for creation. Things evolve as they are put on paper, but they have to be allowed to get to that point. I found that granting my writing permission to exist independently from my beliefs about myself and what writing should be allowed my stories and poetry to become entities upon which I could look back more critically later in the editing stage.
This is not to say that I advise removing yourself from your writing. Just the opposite. My advise is to relax and reflect honestly on what kind of obstacles you’re placing in the way of your own writing. Sometimes the hurdle between you and the zen-catharsis that comes from the creation process is one you set yourself.
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