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Releasing My Writer’s Expectations

(Originally published at http://mysteristas.wordpress.com)

Staring at the blank page on the screen in front of me, I flex my fingers over the keyboard. Pause. I wiggle and stretch each finger, one at a time. Pause. I tap my nails on the keys, at first randomly, and then in a series of varying rhythms. The noise begins to annoy me, and I stop. Finally, I type a few words, a sentence. Then I delete them all and stare at the blinking cursor, its consistent, moderate pace mesmerizing in its dull predictability.

I consider banging my head against the desk, but the keyboard is in the way. Although. . .no, I won’t abuse my keyboard (yet). Eventually, I remind myself that written garbage is writing, and bad writing leads to good writing. It’s just so darn hard to allow garbage to appear on the page, even if just for a little while. Somewhere in the cobweb-filled, dusty,  rarely visited back corner of my mind, there’s this irrational fear that somehow the garbage writing will become anchored to the pages, and other people will read it.

I don’t claim this makes sense, mind you.

Every writer has a process, and I think I’ve mentioned that mine requires writing my way into or out of any project. I just have to write, and write, and write, and somewhere along the way the story begins to flow and the pieces fall into place. Later, the story flow slows to a trickle, and I know I’m done for a bit. Repeat, until the story is done becoming a first draft. I learn a lot about my characters and their stories by doing this, and I have a fat file of snippets for potential future use (having deleted the garbage from the beginnings and endings of current projects, and realizing some of it’s not bad, occasionally even quite good–just not for the current project). My novel had seven first chapters before I finally wrote the one that was right. Some of the others moved to different positions, some are in the fat snippet file, hoping to see the light of day again in the future.

The point of release makes all the difference. It’s that magical, unpredictable point when I give up on having the perfect sentence or paragraph or page planned, and I begin to write, anything, nothing, something. I release my expectations for that particular writing opportunity, close my eyes (seriously, I begin typing with my eyes closed), and get on with it.

Few things feel quite as good as reaching that point. For this borderline Type A/Scorpio/risk-averse girl, giving up control of the outcome (in the form of those limiting expectations) can be overwhelming, terrifying, even paralyzing. But when I finally release the expectations? Better than dark chocolate truffles, and that’s a bold statement, indeed.

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