A few years ago, I was at good friend’s wedding and I knew the bride was hoping for a packed dance floor. Three songs in and the parquet square was painfully empty. My husband grabbed my hand and said, “Come on, let’s get this party started.” I love to dance and I wanted my friend to have the wedding party she deserved. So we hit the dance floor.
Two twirls around and I lost my nerve. Twenty tables of ten times two eyes – you do the math – it was a lot of eyes and I could no longer hear the music. My feet became blocks of cement and every muscle in my body turned rigid. My husband was left trying to twirl a two by four stuck in a five-gallon drum of cement across the floor. I was a dance partner even Derek Hough could not successful spin around.
Our friends at table 4 laughed and waved, but no one joined us. The song mercifully ended and my dejected husband dragged his two by four wife back to her seat. We had failed. The party had clearly not started.
Why do I share this humiliating failure? And what does it have to do with writing?
The same thing can happen to your manuscript. You can have the best idea, set out onto that empty page completely ready, but a few paragraphs in you seize up, just like I did on that dance floor. Here is how it happens. You stop feeling the joy of your own creative energy and you let self-doubt and fear take over. Instead of using your magnificent imagination to conjure up characters, dialogue, and plot twists, you use all your creative energy generating negative comments by potential readers. You drown out the sound of your own writing melody and BAM – you’re a two by four: stiff, halting, and unable to let a single sentence flow across the page.
Pieces of lumber cannot write.
When you let the thought of how this agent, that editor, or that critique partner will react to every word, sentence, or paragraph, those imagined criticisms will interfere with the exuberance of your writing. Your writing needs to flow with energy and reckless abandon. Judgment is like a giant dam blocking off your writing. You need to bust through that dam. Take a few cleansing breaths and focus only on that positive creative voice in your head and then just write exactly what it tells you to write. That’s it. No judgment, no critique, no mocking friends at table 4, no cement, no two by fours; just you and the sound of your fingers tapping out brilliance across a keyboard.
I failed to fill the dance floor at my friend’s wedding because the other guests didn’t see a woman rocking out to her favorite song. Instead they saw my pain, discomfort and humiliation. Who would want to join in on that? If you want readers to share in the joy of your writing, you need to make the process joyful. Judgment and doubt are joy killers and they have no place in your early drafts. Write like you want a full dance floor. Ignore the tables of eyes, and just listen to your own creative music. Readers will come if they can feel the joy in your writing.
Hear your music.
Go! Dance! Write!