I have been writing a blog for a little over two years now. And in that time I have done a lot of writing. One of my aspiring dreams is to be an author of an acutal published book. And not just a published book, but one that people read. Haaaaa. In fact, if you read the tagline of my blog above one of the things I list is aspiring writer.
Writing is fairly easy for me, but not when it comes to something like a book. Articles. Papers. Blogs. Devotionals. I can produce those fairly quickly and with a lot of joy and not too much hesitation. But when I try to sit down and say to myself, “now I’m going to write a book” I all of a sudden freeze up. All my thoughts seem to come out slower and I become the ultimate perfectionist.
Underneath all of this is my fear of failure. What if I write a book and no agent or publisher wants to read it? What does that mean for my dream? Does that make me a failure? It’s this vicious cycle. The fear of failure often actually keeps me from doing the very thing that I enjoy….writing.
A year ago October I had the opportunity to interview Donald Miller when he spoke to our college group. One of the questions I asked him was regarding writing.
Rhett Smith: And that last question, and I think you probably get this all the time, but I’m just wondering. Do you have any advice that you tell someone who is interested in writing, and kind of wants to write a book, and no matter what topic it is, what is one piece of advice you would give them?
Donald Miller: Okay, well. Buy these two books: On Writing Well, by Willam Zinsser, and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. After you finish memorizing those books, move onto The Writing Life by Annie Dillard, and she will get you in the mood to write. But those are the best things. As soon as you have a final manuscript, if you know someone in publishing, send the book to them, if you don’t, attend a writer’s workshop where agents will be present. That is really important. So that’s sort of practical advice on writing, but it’s certainly a great life, and even if you never get published, it’s worth articulating your thoughts on paper. It just helps you organize what you know, what you believe, what you lived. And those sorts of things.
I found his advice to be helpful and I have read a couple of the books that he suggested.
More recently I came across one of Scot McKnight’s posts on writing, Writing–On the Side. I appreciate his advice that writing isn’t something that one does on the side, but it is really a way of life. Scot says,
When you look at writers, it is wise to remember that most of us/them began small, and over time the daily routine of writing became a habit. That habit is what you now see; it didnât spring up one summer break into a full-blown habit.
In other words, writing isnât done on the side. Itâs in the soul, itâs a way of being, and itâs not for everyone. Itâs a scribblerâs itch to get it down.
I am realizing that life is not getting any slower and if I hope to not only aspire to be a writer, but actually consider myself a writer, then writing has to become more than something I do on the side. As of now, writing is not something I think I do on the side, but I have to continue to make it more of a habit. Just like I get up in the morning and go running, I need to form the habit of finding time for writing each day. And maybe I just need to eventually send something in for others to read. So what if I fail. I can still give it another shot. Perfectionism can really keep us from some great things. It keeps us from starting at times by paralyzing us. It keeps us from learning valuable lessons from failure.