Several years ago, I created a list of my beliefs about writing.
We hold beliefs that affect our writing, whether we are conscious of those beliefs or not. Some beliefs hinder us and some help.
I created the list so I could become more aware of how my beliefs affect my writing process. It has become my habit to revisit and revise the list every year or so.
Here is some of what I believe about writing now. Some of my beliefs are tested and smart. Some are pure neurosis.
- Showing up to do the work—fully present and open to possibility—is the hardest part of writing.
- Writing is about layering on, then taking away, layering on, then taking away.
- No one gets it right the first time.
- Don’t get stuck in an idea when another one is trying to happen.
- I will always be learning to write.
- Make a mess. you can always clean it up later.
- Listen to a beta reader’s critique, but make your own decisions.
- I am always proving my inner critic wrong, but that doesn’t make it go away.
- Creation is painful. Revision is a blast.
- When I read something great, I think: That’s writing. What am I doing?
- Reading work out loud is a good way to detect errors, tangles, and crap.
- Laughing out loud while writing is good, even if it’s not during the funny parts.
- My standards are higher than my abilities will ever allow me to reach.
- My best writing happens when I’m not thinking about it.
- I remain cautious about sharing my work in early draft. It’s fragile then, and so am I.
- There is always a nugget of truth in every criticism.
- Time slows down painfully while you wait for someone to read your work.
- I am kinder to other writers than I am to myself.
- No one else can write the story I can write.
- All I can do is write it to the best of my ability and let it go.
- I’m a better writer than I used to be.
- Writing is not a social activity, but writer-friends are necessary.
- I need to have patience with the writing process and compassion for myself.
Whenever I revisit and revise my list, I notice how my beliefs have changed. By being more mindful of them, the beliefs that hindered me have tended to go away or at least lose some of their power over me. Some self-defeating ones do linger. (I am human.) But there are fewer of those than there used to be. And while they still nag at me at the worst possible times, I’ve gotten much better about moving forward in spite of them.
What beliefs do you hold about writing? Which ones help you? Hinder you? Share your thoughts with me.
A version of this posts appeared previously in the Florida Writers Association’s blog.