What if you wrote your entire book without saying that thing you really wanted to say… because of fear? Fear of being too “edgy,” fear of being theologically inaccurate, or fear of offending the reader?
In his article How to Stop Fear From Kicking Your Butt and Killing Your Writing, Frank McKinley gets in our face and admonishes us to write courageously. Enjoy this excerpt:
I used to want my writing to be perfect.
I wanted every word to go perfectly with every other word. My sentences had to sparkle. My wisdom had to astound and inspire. And my prose had to captivate people and take them to new heights of motivational ecstasy.
That’s a standard higher than Mount Everest.
I couldn’t reach it, so I gave up and traded my goal for something even better.
The Trouble With Perfection
Perfection is difficult to define.
In fact, it’s impossible.
Perfect compared to what?
Who says what is perfect and what isn’t?
Since you can’t please everyone, who should you please?
You can’t help everyone. But you can help some. Why not hone in with laser-like focus and apply your talent to a particular problem for which you have a fantastically effective solution?
Fear is Kicking Your Butt
The problem is you’re afraid.
You’re afraid your work won’t be perfect, so you edit each sentence as you write it.
You don’t do that?
Maybe you spend more time editing than writing, thinking you can capture perfection then.
Perfection is a wily devil, isn’t it?
When you spend too much time at the editing table, you’re like I was as an artist. When I worked on a portrait, I would fill, smudge, and erase. I’d work at it with the precision of a master craftsman.
The problem is paper is made of wood.
If you were a sculptor, you’d know you can only carve off so much. There is definitely a point where you can go too far – and totally ruin an otherwise excellent piece of art.
Mess with paper too long and it starts to deteriorate.
How do you know you’ve edited your writing too much?
All the edgy stuff is so smooth, it is sleep-inducing.
You’re so afraid you’ll ruffle someone’s feathers, you hold back the very thing that will stop a reader in her tracks – your audacity.
When that happens, fear has won.
It’s time to start kicking fear’s butt.
Are you ready?
Here are five ways you can write stuff that can change the world.
Write Your Headline First
What better way to develop laser-like focus than to use your headline as a writing prompt?
If you’re going to work really hard on one sentence, make it your headline.
Make it touch a pain point people feel.
Promise a ray of hope that will make people stand up and pay attention.
Take the headline for this article: How to Keep Fear From Kicking Your Butt and Killing Your Writing
Do you want fear to kick your butt?
Of course you don’t.
Do you want your writing to [be terrible]?
“How to Keep” promises you there’s a better way.
It also hints that your way isn’t working.
If you want the pain to go away, you’ll read the whole post to find out how to do it, won’t you?
That’s effective writing.
Write a Vomit Draft
Novelists know this term.
If you’re not familiar with the term, I’m not asking you to do something gross.
A vomit draft is what you write when you send your inner critic out for a nap. You let the words flow uninhibited. No stops. No backtracking. Just happy, carefree, rant-filled writing.
Don’t stop until you’ve got it all out.
Squash every attempt to change something until every possible word that comes to mind hits the page.
When you’re exhausted, you’re done.
Edit After a Break
If you want to write stuff that makes people stand up and cheer, you need to separate writing and editing.
And I don’t mean take a five minute break.
Take a nap and forget about it.
Go to lunch.
Maybe even climb a mountain.
Separate yourself from your work long enough that your fears don’t have their way with you.
Chances are if you really let yourself go, you’ve got some meaty stuff to work with.
Clean up the prose so it sings. Your voice is unique, special, and melodious. Let your reader hear it in all its glory.
Cut the typos, awkward sentences, and needless repetition.
Then let it go.
Set a Time Limit for Everything
Have you ever had to cram for a test?
You came up with some pretty creative ways to master the material, didn’t you?
Maybe you drew pictures because you’re a visual learner.
Perhaps you set your notes to music because you know you never forget the words to your favorite song.
Or maybe you created a story that covered all the important points you needed to remember.
Whatever you did, you dug deep into your well of creativity – because if you didn’t, you were sunk.
What if you could use that same creativity to bring your writing and editing to a higher level?
All it takes is a kitchen timer.
If you write 1000 words, edit for an hour, then stop.
When you know you have a time limit, you force yourself to do what matters. That’s the key to doing your best work day after day.
If you’re in the middle of something when the time runs out, give yourself 5 minutes – after a break – to finish it.
Then you’re done.
When in Doubt, Publish Anyway
One of the best lessons I ever learned came to me at church.
It was Saturday morning. I was with 100 other men at a seminar called Born Free.
The speaker was talking about the prison our fears build for us.
Then he said a sentence that changed my life forever.
“If you ever find yourself saying, ‘I’m not sure I should have said that,’ then that’s exactly what you need to say.”
Let that sink in for a minute.
If you know you shouldn’t say something, that’s one thing.
If you’re not sure, that’s where your genius might be hiding.
Go ahead and let it out.
That edgy statement could change someone’s future.
Do you want to risk missing out on such an opportunity to make a difference?
So what if your work’s not perfect?
So what if what you wrote scares you to death?
Share it with the world.
Some will cheer. Others may gripe. Either way, you’ve done something that matters!
Unleash Your Inner Genius
You’ve just learned five powerful ways to make your writing unforgettable.
If you’ll use these techniques, you’ll have more impact, change more lives, and find more open doors for your message.
And when you feel like a fraud, you’ll have written proof that you aren’t.
There’s no better reward for any writer who’s willing to take big risks to do great work.