- Mon, March 12 2012
- Filed under: Writing
The title of this post is is a wonderful quote from Natalie Goldberg, from her book Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within. What she means is, writing isn’t like ordering up fast food. It involves more time and far less control.
Have you ever had the experience where you have a perfect idea of what you must say but it just doesn’t come out right when you set it down in writing? Don’t give up - every writer lives this experience, all the time. The reason is because writing isn’t a McDonald’s hamburger. You can’t match your imagination to the paper on command, and you have to come to terms with the fact that as thought becomes word, things change, evolve and diverge. You may not get anything remotely resembling a hamburger, and it may take a while.
You have to let go a little when you write. Don’t try to control the process. Rather, let it unfold. What results may not reflect your expectations, but that’s how it nearly always works. And it might be good anyway.
In her book on writing, another favorite writer of mine, Ann Patchett, says you should forgive yourself the difference. In The Getaway Car, she writes we have this idea that “the story is within us, and all we have to do is sit there and write it down. But it’s right about there, the part where we sit, that things fall apart… Every time I have set out to translate the book that exists in such brilliant detail on the big screen of my limbic system onto a piece of paper, I grieve for my own lack of talent and intelligence. Every. Single. Time… Forgiveness, therefore, is key. I can’t write the book I want to write, but I can and will write the book I am capable of writing.”
If you’re feeling the frustration of unrealized glory in your newsletter, your email appeal, your pitch or a letter to someone special, remember this. It’s not supposed to come easy or perfect. Don’t worry about that. Just write what you are capable of writing, as best you can. And embrace the messy process of its emergence as a necessary step to making something good.