Why Do We Avoid Doing What We Love?

I had a touching conversation with a friend yesterday. She told me that she was trying to get back to writing, but hadn't been able to, and didn't understand why.

"I love writing," she said, "so I don't understand why I avoid it. Why does anyone avoid something they love?"

Why indeed?

Perhaps it's not surprising, in a way. When you love something, you wish to do it no harm. But the minute we sit down to write, we begin doing harm. We have a vision in our heads of the beautiful, perfect words we hope to set down, in perfect order, with perfect timing. We love and honor this vision, and would not willingly botch, sacrifice it. But we have to. We must sit down and stutter. And stumble. And be repetitious. And choose the wrong words. And write weak sentences. And faulty paragraphs. And entire, unwieldy chapters.

Perhaps what we have to come to understand is that this does not do violence to our relationship with words. We haven't failed in our commitment to them. We haven't betrayed our love. Quite the opposite. It takes time to get to know the thing you love. There's a shyness and a fumbling, at first. We allow ourselves this time when we have fallen in love with a human being--but less so when we have fallen in love with writing. We don't generally avoid a person we love--but we often avoid writing. I know. I've done it. Then I have to give myself the little speech above. I have to remind myself: you love this. Go and do it. Don't hide from it. It's all right. You can't dance with a story if you stay leaning against the wall.

Step away from the wall. It's safe. But there is no love there.


Photo credit: Bruce Barone


So true, Mylene. Perfectionism can be debilitating. We have to be willing to write in the dark and struggle toward the light with criticism, subsequent drafts, revision... lots and lots of very hard work -- and all of it so far removed from our vision of effortless, expert performance.

The only trouble with that vision is it's fantasy.

Thanks for sharing.

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