"All writing problems are psychological problems. Blocks usually stem from the fear of being judged. If you imagine the world listening you'll never write a line. That's why privacy is so important. You should write first drafts as if they will never be shown to anyone." Eric's Jong
|Image courtesy of ntwowe / freedigitalphotos.net|
This quote is so true for me. Almost every time I feel myself becoming blocked, if I take some time to think about the cause, it comes down to this fear of being judged. I am always terrified that someone will read one of my awful first drafts and call me out as a fraud. If it ever were to happen I would likely self-combust in a burning ball of shame.
It's not just people reading what I have already written that causes me problems. No matter how 'in the zone' I am, if someone walks into the room when I am writing I will lose all train of thought within the space of one sentence and the words will dry up. It doesn't matter if that person is wholly occupied with something else and paying me no attention whatsoever, I will instantly clam up. Unfortunately I don't have an office space and the majority of my writing has to be done in my living room, so this is a regular occurrence. I once tried going to a coffee shop and writing there. I managed to find a quiet corner with a few empty tables where I could sit with my back against the wall safe in the knowledge no-one would be able to read over my shoulder. It took me about fifteen minutes to finally feel comfortable enough to start writing but then I suddenly hit my stride and it was going great. I was getting more work done in one morning than I had managed all week, and then a group of women came and sat next me. They were all deep in conversation with one another and not the least bit interested in what I was doing, but I still got that feeling they could see what I was writing and just like that my brain shrivelled up and refused to produce a single coherent thought.
I know deep down that this fear of being judged is ridiculous and I am trying my hardest to overcome it. One of the motivating factors behind starting this blog was to force myself to move beyond this fear and get my writing out there. I still get nervous every time I hit the publish button on the blog and am frequently wracked with doubts ('what do I know?', 'who cares what I think?'), but it is getting easier week by week.
Recently I have been pushing myself to write when there are distractions, even if just for ten minutes at a time. The hope is that eventually I will be comfortable writing no matter what is going on around me, and privacy (in a physical sense at least) will no longer be a problem. I wrote a blog post about it here, if you want to find out more about it.
When it comes to sharing what I have written though, first drafts will always be strictly for my eyes only. First drafts are messy and cringeworthy, they are about getting the basic ideas down as fast as possible. For me at least, they don't contain much, if any, description. There is no finesse, and some scenes may go off on an odd tangent that will later be removed. Part way through I may decide that something that happened at the start needs to be changed and instead of going back and re-writing I will simply make a note of it and carry on as though the change has already been made. If anyone read one of these first drafts they would not only find the writing appalling, they would likely be very confused as well. The real writing happens in the drafts that follow and in the editing stage, then and only then, will I be happy to show my writing to a third party.
How about you? Does a fear of being judged stop you in your tracks? Do you have to have privacy for your writing? Have you ever shared a first draft with anyone? If so, what was their reaction? I'd love to hear from you, either in the comments below or directly here.