Elizabeth Gilbert posted her top ten tips for writing the other week. And #10 really caught me.
“Be willing to let it be easy.”
For the past several months, I’ve been dreaming up and outlining my second novel. And last week, I was ready to get going with the first draft, but I paused at the start. Eyes squeezed shut and teeth clenched.
Writing my first book felt like a battle with little victories and lots of struggle. I think all the fight came from fear. Was I doing it right? I applied that question to every part of the novel and every stage of the writing process.
Is the first chapter right?
Is my character development complete?
Is this detail historically accurate?
Is the plot moving too quickly? Too slowly?
Is this joke funny?
Is the ending satisfying?
Ugh, exhausting. Thank goodness for my unrelenting drive to write and my dear, patient writing friends that scooped me off my keyboard over and over again. I produced a first novel I feel very proud of and now as I start my second, I braced for the onslaught again.
Then came Liz’s #10 tip. Let it be easy.
Intellectually, I know that the first draft is crap. Anne Lamott really drove that home for me in Bird by Bird. Writing a first draft lets me find the story. It helps me meet the characters. It lets me test out the plot. But I don’t think I really allowed that for myself.
Energetically, I was still feeling like I needed to get it right. I’ve received the advice to write badly, but that didn’t land the way “easy” landed. ‘Let it be easy’ bypassed the judgement of good and bad. The advice invited me to check in with my energy not my craft. ‘Let it be easy’ let me set aside my judgement, and therefore my fear, and just write.
In my experience, the hard came from the judgement, and really the inappropriate judgement about my work. It’s not time for me to worry if I nailed the first line. It’s not time for me to worry if my characters are fully developed. It’s time for me to get the words on a page. Letting that go, allowed me to melt into ease.
So each day, I hit my word count. I am not getting blocked because I can’t get it wrong. It’s easy…for now anyways.