Drivel

Day Nineteen: Don’t Stop the Rockin’

Today is a free writing day. Write at least four-hundred words, and once you start typing, don’t stop. No self-editing, no trash-talking, and no second guessing: just go. Bonus points if you tackle an idea you’ve been playing with but think is too silly to post about.

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I skipped day 18’s writing prompt. I’m just not ready to tackle dialogue and crafting stories from whole cloth. I have this paralyzing fear of writing fiction. I’m certain that any story I can write has not only already been told better a hundred times before, but also that anyone who sees my fiction writing would first laugh themselves sick and then confiscate all my writing instruments to spare the world the agony. 
Drivel. That’s what my fiction work would be. I just know it. 
That’s why I skipped to tomorrow’s prompt. At least drivel is a reasonably expected result of a free-write assignment, right?
Some days I just have no confidence in my ability to write anything other than professional memoranda and contract provisions. Nothing that takes any creativity and thought. On these days, I think it’s better to leave my proverbial pen in the proverbial inkwell. But I know that’s a copout. I’m sure the prevailing view is that it’s better to write than not, even when I’m not confident in my skill.
That’s so hard. In a lot of ways, I’m a perfectionist about intellectual accomplishments. Especially writing. Mostly because I’ve endured a lot of criticism about my writing as an attorney. Or at least as a law student. 
I had such a hard time adjusting from the easy, comfortable yet lazy, writing style that got me through undergrad to the more formal and rigorous style required in law school. When I started law school I was unprepared for the level of scrutiny that profs brought to written work. I had skated a bit through high school and undergrad. I seemed able to complete the work and get good grades without much effort. The resulting laziness nearly killed me the first week of law school, when I discovered what real scholarship required. 
The first writing assignment almost made me cry. I understood the material and the instructions of the prof, but the exacting limitations on font size, margins, passive voice, word count and sentence length we’re unprecedented in my academic career. I felt caged, beleaguered and inadequate to the task. 
Thus began a decades-long struggle with my writing confidence. No matter how many trips to the campus writing center, or how many pleas for help to the one prof I was not afraid to speak to, I couldn’t seem to nail down the perfect balance of rule-following and rule-breaking. It didn’t help that different profs had different standards of measuring you against an ostensibly objective style guide. Contracts prof accepted, even expected, a comma riddled piece full of long sentences. But the Torts prof wanted short “pithy” sentences in a Spartan style. I never did fully grasp what pithy is in writing context. Every assignment was a new torture. 
After law school, in my first law job, it was worse, in a way. Though the grammar nazi supervision of Legal Writing was gone, the continual judgement from senior associates and partners, without any constructive guidance, made my confidence plummet further. 
Eventually, with a lot of self study and trial and error, my professional writing improved. With experience, I learned what was needed and how to achieve it. 
But I haven’t found the same equilibrium with fiction writing. I’m still in the low-confidence stage. I know that courage and practice are the only cure. It’s so hard, though. With writing for work, there are tangible rewards (and risks) to provide incentive for practice. Not so writing for fun. If something makes me uncomfortable or seems too hard without much return for the labor, I can just skip it. Like yesterday’s prompt. I don’t risk being fired or fined or throttled if I skip that thing. 
It’s so hard to motivate myself to confront the fear. So, in the way of all self-defeating patterns and self-fulfilling prophecies, my fiction writing is drivel because I’m too scared to write drivel for other people to ridicule. 
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