The Courage of Full-Frontal Writing

“When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.”
—Kurt Vonnegut

This writing is abysmal. It’s worse than abysmal. It’s trite and one-dimensional and has no soul. That sentence reeks. This word is all wrong. As a writer, a creator, you are a colossal failure. You should probably just throw in the towel and leave real writing to real writers who have real stories to tell.

Sound familiar?

That’s the voice that rears up in my head every time I put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. It is loud and obnoxious and so darn persistent. It drowns out everything else and, inevitably, sabotages my writing. I am a chronic story-starter-and-never-finisher. And I know I’m not alone.

Part of it is perfectionism: we want our writing to be perfect. But so much of what makes a piece of writing great is its own particular flaws—its unique grittiness, its quirky melody, its unconventional turn of phrase. Seeking perfection is futile because it simply doesn’t exist. And really, who would want it to? Instead of chasing perfect, we need to slow down and embrace the imperfections. We need to let the words out without judgment.

And part of it is fear: we fear criticism, rejection, disapproval. Writing honestly makes us vulnerable; it exposes some of the most unprotected parts of ourselves to the world. But writing dishonestly, in an effort toward self-preservation, always falls flat. We can’t write well when we are holding back. To be successful we need to be exposed. To be exposed is to invite attack. Until we fully accept this risk, we will never truly be able to write.

And writers need to write.

It’s time to break the cycle. We need to let go of our perfectionism and face our fears of criticism. After all, our worst critics are those nasty voices in our heads. By putting words on the page, judgment free, and committing to writing honestly, we will start to silence those voices—and maybe, just maybe, we’ll finally finish a story.

- Jaime