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Writing is like driving into the night

"It's like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."
- EL Doctorow

For about three months now, I've been writing fiction. And have written close to 35,000 words. That's by far the longest piece of work I have written. And I feel like I'm just about half way through. But, do I know the entire story till the end? Definitely not. 

This exercise has been like the quote from Doctorow. Every time I manage to put together a few sentences, I see a little more of what's coming up ahead. 

For the longest time, I never started because I was trying to have the whole plot in my mind before putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). And that never happened. So one fine day, I just started with the initial setting. And then I could see a little further. And then a little further. Just like driving in the dark with headlights on.

We have the tendency to picture the end state, the masterpiece that we want to accomplish, even before we start. It's good to dream, but only as long as that doesn't prevent us from taking the first step. 

It is natural to want to found the next Uber, or be the next Taylor Swift or JK Rowling, but that very likely will not happen with the very first piece of work we ever do. But, comparing our first work to some of the best that is out there is a recipe for dissuading us from taking action.

As startup advice goes, 'Done is better than perfect' and 'If its ready, ship it. If its not ready, ship it.' Unless we get our work out the door for people to see, we only have what's in our head to critique our work. And what's in our head, the scared little lizard brain that is constantly trying to prevent embarrassment of any kind by amplifying potential criticism a hundredfold, is always trying to put down our work by telling us that it isn't anywhere near good enough. 

And it never will be. Unless we ship it and put it out there. And do it again. And again. Until we get good at it. 

So, stop trying to illuminate the entire path before turning on the car. Just turn on those headlights and start driving, and eventually, you'll make the whole trip. Maybe not in the shortest way possible. Maybe you'll take a couple of wrong turns here and there. But you'll get there. Whereas if you don't start the car, you will be rooted to where you are. 

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2 comments:

  1. A very insightful post. There are lessons here that I can definitely put to use. Thank you :)

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  2. :) Inspiring! Getting on it!

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