Valuable stuff — permission to write
“Take the attitude that what you are thinking and feeling is valuable stuff, and then be naive enough to get it all down on paper.”
That’s what Anne Lamott says in her great book on writing Bird by Bird. And I wouldn’t dream of arguing with her.
I’m in the “naive enough” stage with a personal project I’m working on. Every time my fingers hit the keyboard I have to remind myself that it doesn’t matter whether anyone will want to read it. It matters even less whether anyone will want to buy it. What matters is that I give myself permission to write.
That doesn’t quite rise to the level of believing that what I’m “thinking and feeling is valuable”—but it’s good enough to make words appear on my screen. And that’s my goal right now.
Don’t let the noise mask the valuable stuff
“The discouraging voices will hound you—”This is all piffle,” they will say, and they may be right. What you are doing may just be practice. But this is how you are going to get better, and there is no point in practicing if you don’t finish.”
And so I write. Every damn day. Because some of what falls out of my fingers onto the screen may turn out to be valuable stuff.
Which is the valuable stuff and which is the crap?
That’s for sorting out another day—when the discouraging voices take their coffee break. Try to revise when the discouraging voices are on duty and you’ll end up throwing it all into the trash. Which I know writers don’t really do anymore—all we have to do is drag an icon into the trash bin icon. But that’s hardly satisfying.
No, when the discouraging voices shout their loudest you’ll be ready to print out the whole draft for the sheer joy of chucking it into the real-life trash bin just to hear the satisfying CLUNK.
But it’s not, you know. It’s not all crap. There’s some valuable stuff in there, and you’ll see it once you’ve given yourself some distance. So step away from the computer. And breathe.