Here’s one of my favorite writing quotes from poet and writing teacher William Stafford:
“I believe that the so-called ‘writing block’ is product of some kind of disproportion between your standards and your performance… One should lower his standards until there is no felt threshold to go over in writing. It’s easy to write.
“You shouldn’t have standards that inhibit you from writing… It really doesn’t make any difference if you are good or bad today. The assessment of the product is something that happens after you’ve done it.”
Do you save writing quotes?
I keep a collection of writing quotes for inspiration, and the above quote by William Stafford is one of my favorites. It’s helpful if you’re judgmental of your writing.
Of course you need to judge and edit your writing, but never while you’re writing. If you judge as you’re writing, you’ll choke, and you’ll think that writing is hard.
How to avoid judging your writing while you’re writing…
I’ve found these strategies useful.
- Pre-write. Create clusters, or mind maps before you start writing;
- Set a goal for your writing, in writing. Write about what you want to achieve in a couple of sentences. Example: “In this scene, I want to introduce the prime suspect. Our detective realizes that he’s lying about where he was on the night of the murder.”
- Write. Accept what you’re writing. Writing is always a partnership between your subconscious and your conscious mind. Your subconscious leads, so writing is always discovery. No judging. :-)
- Once you’ve finished writing, you can read what you’ve written, but don’t start editing immediately. Leave your writing for a few hours if you can.
I agree with Stafford that common writing blocks occur because we’re trying to hit an imaginary standard. (Blocks may also occur if we’re stressed, or unwell.)
As he suggests, lower your standards. You’ll be surprised at how much easier your writing becomes. And you’ll be even more surprised when you meet your own standards, and have fun with your writing. When I’m coaching my writing students, we do lots of exercises so that they train themselves to write easily, without judging.
Here are some writing exercises you can try. They work.
Tip: if you find you’re blocked, you may find my Easy Write Process program useful. It includes lots of exercises.