If you are paralyzed by a voice in your head
It’s the standing still that should be scaring you instead
Go on, and do it anyway
“Do It Anyway,” The Ben Folds Five
So, I have been trying to do this “writing 50K words this November.” I am pretty sure that is not going to happen – I am just over 12K shy of where I should be by this time. I have written just over 1K this evening, and it has taken me an full hour and a half. And tonight, the words are just flowing. Most evenings they flow as well as honey in the snow.
Not that they are coherent and thoughtful words. Much more stream of consciousness. That is what trying to write so many words in a month will do to you: you cannot let yourself have the luxury of indecision, of perfectionism. I suspect that if I do write close to my goal, it will require me to just write.
It’s akin to Elizabeth Bear’s maxim that the first rule of professional writing is “butt in chair.” If you want to write, write. If you don’t want to write, write anyway. If it is a terrible day outside, and you would rather nap? Write. If it is a beautiful day outside, and you would rather drive to the beach? Write. Can’t write at home? Find someplace that you can. Think you don’t have anything to say? Find your voice.
And don’t be too worried about what the hell other people think. Someone once told me of Seth Godin’s motto, “Just ship it.” Let go of the rope. (This is not quite the same as Alan Ginsburg’s maxim to writers to “murder your darlings.”) Move on.
Earlier this year I went to a concert by the Ben Folds Five and the Barenaked Ladies. Because I almost never hear music when it first comes out, I had never actually heard any music by the Ben Folds Five. I came away with two songs I love: “Song for the Dumped,” and “Do It Anyway.”
One of my absolutely coolest friends said that “Do It Anyway” was sort of a theme song for her. I wish it could be for me. I think that’s what I need to do: let go of outcomes. Leap into the abyss, without figuring out where the net is.
Count surrender like you know that’s a joke
And the punchline is that you were never in control
That’s so hard: perfectionism is a way of exerting control, and pretending that what you is not good enough to share with anyone is a way to keep yourself safe from criticism. Except you’re never really safe, are you? You have to find your safety in yourself.
I wonder how to do that.