Read another book and learned something about writing

I didn’t write anything yesterday, after a really late start to the day, reading half a book, then going off to do stuff that has to be done when you’re running a household. But reading that book yesterday and today—which I really enjoyed, by the way—taught me something I know but seem unable to learn.

When writing, you have to allow yourself to write what comes naturally.

I keep trying to find a way to explain this but it’s not coming to me easily, even though I know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s about phrases and sentences and letting the words come the way they want to come and avoiding the urge to go back and fix them, when the truth is, they don’t need to be fixed.

I’m not talking about letting myself write sub-par prose because it’s good enough. This is nothing like that. I’m talking about writing good prose. Strong prose. Stuff that upon reading it creates vivid images in my mind, but that when I write it feels like bad writing. It’s not bad writing. That’s what I saw in this book. So many of the phrases I’ve taken to rewriting worked great just as they were in that book. I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Those phrases would have come—do come—naturally to me, but then I change them for reasons that I’ve only now realized are problematic at best. It’s me trying to force a style on the words, a style the words don’t need. I had started to feel like maybe this was what I was doing, but I wasn’t sure. But I can see it clearly now after reading something that reminded me a lot of my own natural writing style.

This—this thing I’ve just realized, maybe not for the first time, probably not for the last either—is the main reason why I can’t stop writing slowly: I can’t write what comes to me naturally and leave it alone.

It’s just another way perfectionism has slipped into my writing and slowed me down.

I spend too much time parsing every word I write and trying to control every phrasing, every sentence, every paragraph break. This makes writing hard, and is it any wonder I don’t want to do it when I’m fighting myself the entire time I’m trying to write a story? Writing isn’t fun when you can’t let go.

After a few days of reading, it’s so easy to see this problem in my writing. The sad thing is that I know to watch out for this kind of thing, this second-guessing of myself as I write, and yet I still haven’t learned not to do it.

But at least for today, for now, I feel a little more free than I did yesterday, and I’m hopeful today’s writing will come easier because of it.

Now, it’s 5:11 pm and I have 1,557 words to write, and I’m going to do it. I’m not looking back at what I didn’t accomplish yesterday, but moving forward toward what I can accomplish today.

One hour sessions, starting now. I’ll post updates below.


Updates

Session 1: 60 minutes, 367 words

I’m just going to say right off, and hope I’m not wrong, that the reason for the slow writing in this session was that I just didn’t (still don’t) know where this scene is going. I actually felt I was writing pretty fast for a while, and I wasn’t second-guessing myself, but then I kind of hit a wall and my brain wasn’t ready to tell me where to go next. I can hope I’m right about that, anyway. Also, I did straight up delete 115 words. Still, that only improves the numbers marginally. I’d have liked to have written about two times faster than I did.

Session 2: 77 minutes, 260 words

After that, I gave up for the night. This scene is just kicking my butt and I don’t even know why.

Word count: 644 (added a few more words after I stopped counting the time)

I’m frustrated, but I’m not really sure what else I can do to get past this other than practice and push on.

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