If You Wait for the Perfect Conditions to Write, You May Never Write At All
My mission: Prioritize creativity over perfectionism and write more consistently, even if the situation isn't ideal. (Possible spelling mistakes ahead).
I’m writing this blog from a beat-up old van somewhere in the desert in Aswan, Egypt (typos ahead)! Outside the window, mile after mile of sand glides by. As a full-time freelance writer/ghostwriter who travels a lot, many of my workdays look like this. They aren’t exactly comfortable—but the job gets done. And when it comes to writing, sometimes it’s just about getting words on the page and finishing the job, even if it isn’t your best work. You can edit later—at least, that’s what I tell myself. Let’s get real: Like most writers, I want the words to flow easily and poetically on the first try. We all know it’s not that simple.
Last week, I wrote about famous authors’ varied approaches to the writing process. Some have precise conditions—like Maya Angelou, who used to lease a hotel room to work in (and have the hotel management remove all artworks and other distractions from the space). I’m trying to embrace E.B. White’s approach to the process: Write when you can, where you can, as often as you can. The children’s book author E.B. White (Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web, The Trumpeter of the Swans, to name a few) was notorious for writing amidst the chaos of his busy family home, his wife and children clamoring around him. In his words: “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”
Sure, it’s not always possible. But I think there’s something to be learned from White’s attitude. That said, sometimes it’s easier said than done! I have all kinds of hacks I use to stay focused when traveling, from wearing noise-canceling headphones to turning off my computer’s WiFi (keeping the focus on work, not the internet—and saving precious laptop power, essential when plugs aren’t to be found). But the most important thing? Showing myself a bit of grace and knowing that the words I cobble together when I’m on a public bus or on a plane may not be pure poetry. But I’d rather get something down now and change it later, then wait and let those free hours spent in transit pass me by.
Thank you for reading my blog! This is a space where I share personal thoughts — an opportunity for self-expression that has nothing to do with my professional writing. None of the thoughts or opinions expressed in this blog should be construed as anything but my own, nor should they be affiliated with any company or person I contract with or write for.
NOW that that's done... I'd love to hear from you about this blog post in the comments!