My best writing happens when I don’t give a damn about the outcome. Most readers don’t give a damn either, so why should I? And when I get to that precious, devil-may-care, creative state of mind, the work I produce gets noticeably better—still not great, but better—and when it does and becomes something I’m happy with, I inevitably start to care because deep in my heart I always wanted it to be good, I was merely playing hard to get to let the writing muse do some of the work for me. She tends to realize this the same instant I do and flees, feeling cheated. Whatever I do to make up for my trespasses is not enough to win her back. It’s too late. I care too much and try too hard.
It’s a vicious cycle at the heart of every creative process.
One of the reasons I’m participating in the NaNoWriMo challenge this year is to remember how to have fun writing. I was a happy writer a long time ago, when I knew my writing was shit. Now I’m not so sure. Some people seem to enjoy what I write, and I mean I do get paid for it, so maybe it’s not that bad? It goes to my head sometimes. Makes me care more for the outcome than the process. Instead of paying attention, I crave attention, become self-conscious.
But you can no more be self-conscious and write than be self-conscious and juggle. At the heart of writing, there is the same kind of mindful focus and concentration that juggling requires. To juggle, you need to throw the balls up and trust your brain to take it from there. It will keep catching and throwing, compensating for mistakes and imperfections of aim and motion, for as long as you don’t get in the way. But the moment you become conscious of the complexity involved—or try to control it—your hands falter, and the balls drop to the floor.
The performance has to take place, whole and imperfect. And yes, you need to present, pay attention, but not pause to consider because self-consciousness and judgment are the enemies of creativity.
They say a writer is someone on whom nothing is lost. And to write, you need to be that person, except not when you write, not when you create. You need to learn how to switch off that part of your brain that makes you you, and accept your role as a willing participant of a process that’s bigger than your conscious self would like to admit.
Need Help During NaNoWriMo?
Need help? Join me on my Patreon-only Discord server. It’s a perfect place for you to bounce ideas around, get help with your novel, ask for other writer’s opinions and advice (mileage may vary), or simply a place where you can hang out. Check it out.