Day forty-three of my 365 Day Writing Project.
Time: 45 mins
If I’m not mindful, I can easily spend an hour on one paragraph writing, editing and re-working the sentences over and over until they are just right. When I’m finally satisfied with the paragraph, I feel accomplished and relieved at the same time. I feel relieved because it is over. I finished it. I’m done obsessing and my mind can rest for a while. When I allow myself to get like that it is not only exhausting, it is counter-productive. Imagine trying to write a novel one paragraph at a time with this system. Agony.
It is my natural tendency to strive for quality over quantity. It is just how my brain works. I’m a Type-A, obsessive-compulsive, over-critical, pragmatic, detail-oriented, perfectionist lawyer. Blech. Actually, let me re-phrase that: Part of me is those things. Part of me is also a creative, imaginative, resourceful, artistic, expressive, insightful writer. A month ago I don’t think I would have described myself in the latter terms. I suppose they have always been a part of my make-up, but they are becoming more vibrant since starting this project. I am experiencing the gradual redevelopment of these traits. They are slowly starting to redefine who I am, and as a result, I feel like a better version of myself.
After just 43 days of this project, I am learning what could very well be the most important lesson (for me) about becoming a successful writer. That lesson is this: writing for quantity sacrifices quality, and that is okay. To write every day – to just get something down on paper that wouldn’t have come to be if I had watched TV or folded laundry or gone to bed early – means abandoning my tendency to obsessively edit, mash, mold and contrive my writing into something perfect. I simply write. I no longer worry about quality. Letting go of the worry is incredibly freeing and allows the traits that make me a better writer to be cultivated. As a result, my writing is becoming more creative, imaginative, resourceful, artistic, expressive and insightful.
What is really special about this lesson is the irony. By sacrificing perceived quality during the writing process, I’m actually improving the overall quality of my writing. I’ll have a big job to do later when it is time to finally edit and refine my work. But at least my creativity during the writing process will not be thwarted. The finished product later will possess far more in quality than ever would have come to be if not for letting go of the worry.