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Writing and Puking: A Parallel

Updated: Mar 8, 2020

Writing should be approached in the same way that one approaches puking: You know you have to write. You feel sick/anxious/upset in the stomach beforehand. You sit down and throw up all the words onto the paper. It’s a mess, but you feel better when it’s out. Now, you can get started on cleaning up the mess.

A gross analogy, but an important one.

There is the tendency for individuals to want to write perfectly on the first attempt—a mindset that can add debilitating pressure. One of the most anxiety inducing situations for writers (or anybody attempting to write, for that matter!) is the black, blinking cursor on the background of the completely white screen. I often tell my students that the best way to combat the anxiety is just to write—even if the result is a terrible mess. In reality, nobody has to know of the mess that you started with; the only interest is in how well you can clean up afterwards.

This mindset can be applied to all kinds of writing situations: resumes, fiction, non-fiction, essays, reports, outlines—virtually any kind of document. You can start a resume by bullet pointing skills you’ve built in the past. A fiction piece can start as a jumble of ideas. An outline can be copied and pasted in different orders until the order is satisfactory. The truth is that no document is ever truly perfect. Resumes continue until retirement; fiction writers may feel like they want to make changes even after publication; outlines can grow and shrink in an instant.

The more practice you have with just getting the ideas on paper, the less pressure there will be to “puke perfectly”.

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