June 18

Myth: there is a perfect way to write

Oh, yes, we all have that feeling. We've planned to write this piece (paper, intro to a book, even an important email). The words swirl around in our brains as we stare at the blank screen. We feel that there is some perfect way to craft our streaming thoughts into beautiful, poignant, witty sentences. We wait for the heavens to open up and the light to shine on our keyboard, illuminating the strokes that will produce that “perfect sentence.”

Looks kind of like this:

Dark sky

Let's crack that fictitious image right open. There is no perfect way to write your paper, book, or email. The paragraph that you are trying to write does not exist in heaven as a Platonic form, waiting to be incarnated on your computer.

There are a million, no, a billion, no, an infinite number of ways that I could write this blog post. There are an infinite number of ways that you could write your paper, or book, or email.

The goal is not to find the perfect way to write. The goal is to find a good way to communicate your thoughts to your potential readers.

So, stop imagining that the whole of history depends on your ability to write the perfect paragraph. It doesn't.

Imagine one person who might read whatever it is you are trying to write. Imagine your ideal reader. Give that person a face, a name, a story. And write to her.

The world is full of enough ideas and enough readers that you only have to learn how to communicate the best way you know how. The world is big enough for literary types, like James Joyce and Walt Whitman, as well as entertaining books from Danielle Steele and James Patterson, and creative non-fiction from Malcom Gladwell and Susan Cain, and even plain-spoken advice from Dave Ramsey and Joel Olstein. And I'm sure you would have more authors to add to the list.

There is room for all these styles of writing, and yours too. None of them is perfect, but they all communicate their ideas effectively to the people who need to hear them.

Stop procrastinating. Start writing. Yes, you'll edit your words later, but for now, imagine your reader and write to him or her. Because, truly, there are people in the world who would be better off having read your ideas, but their lives will not be benefited until you start writing.

The myth is that “good writers” put their hands on the keyboards, beautiful words march onto the screen, and perfectly-crafted sentences just line up on the page.

The fact is that ALL writers, perhaps especially the good ones, begin with rough drafts and revise, revise, revise.

You want to know what actually separates good writers from bad writers?

Good writers know when to just start writing. In fact, good writers write every single day, whether or not the heavens bestow inspirational light upon their keyboard not. Good writers worry about editing and revising later because they know that, first, they must write.

The world needs your actual words now, not the promise of “perfect” words that will never come.



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