I recently read a business article about the fear of failure and how it stops us from being successful. The idea is that the single best way to improve is to try and fail, then take what you’ve learned and try again. Unfortunately, for most of us, we hate to fail at anything, for any reason. We want our words to come out perfect.
If you think about it, failure is what the glaring blank page represents, isn’t it? I mean, if we get right down to it, in most cases that’s what holds us back – this pesky fear of failure. We get so mired by the perfect way to say something that we end up not saying anything at all.
That’s why I like NaNoWriMo. Not because it gets us in the chair to write (which is great). Not because we at least can get close to finishing something if we never have (which is better). Not because it connects us to other writers who are all in this race to the finish with us (which is pretty nifty too). It’s that the experience teaches us to let go of the pressures we place on ourselves. It gives us permission to write anything-no pressure to make it spit-polish shiny, no looming expectation that it could be published one day. NaNoWriMo gives us a license to play. It gives us a permission to fail, which is amazingly freeing. The only goal is that 50,000 words.
Writing the perfect book isn’t the point. The point is to be productive, and the only way to be truly productive is to set aside the need to get it right the first time. Editing can come later, after you’ve let the story sit for a little. I recently reread a NaNo book I wrote a few years ago, and realized it wasn’t half bad. Best of all, it’s a complete novel-something I probably wouldn’t have accomplished without letting go of the need to revise as I went.
Take it as a foregone conclusion that what we’re writing is imperfect. By knowing that, we can free ourselves from the fear of it. We allow ourselves to put our thoughts onto the page without judgement getting in the way.
Get it wrong. Make mistakes. Toss in that ridiculous action sequence. Ramble about backstory. Wax rhapsodic with a detailed description of how the living room reminds your grandma’s dollhouse collection. Don’t know the first thing about bazookas except that they are essential to your hero getting the girl of his dreams? Go for it! You’ll be amazed what comes out, and you’ll have plenty of time to fix it later.
Get to it.