Monday Motivation: The enemy of good writing
What’s the greatest barrier to good writing? Well, I suppose you could think of a great number of candidates. But how about complacency as one that should figure near the top of any list?
Complacency goes hand in hand with the unexamined assumption that you’re on the right path, and that there’s no need to interrogate your choices.
Some mistake complacency for confidence. Admittedly there’s a fine line that separates them.
But what complacency does is shut off possible avenues that could yield interesting outcomes. (I realise as I write these lines that, as is so often the case, I’m writing as much about life, as I am about writing. But then, it was Blake who said it was possible – perhaps inevitable – to see “a world in a grain of sand”.)
Attendant upon the willingness to take risks (and fly in the face of complacency) is the possibility of failure.
And of course the possibility of failure inspires fear.
So fear, we can conclude, is the hand-maiden of creative experimentation.
Which is why it’s always better starting a new scene with a little flutter of apprehension, perhaps a touch of imposter’s syndrome.
When I encounter a writer who has no doubt that what he’s working on is going to be a great book, that his characters are electrifying, and his plotting immaculate, my immediate reaction is to think: aha, here’s another demonstration of the Dunning-Kruger Effect.*
* The Dunning-Kruger effect occurs when a person’s lack of knowledge and skills in a certain area cause them to overestimate their own competence. By contrast, this effect also causes those who excel in a given area to think the task is simple for everyone and underestimate their relative abilities as well.