Sometimes, the hardest part about writing is knowing that someone else will read your words. We fuss over those words, picturing the reader as we pound out sentences, worrying over whether what we’re writing sounds trite or if the grammar is perfect. We might imagine the reader rolling their eyes, closing the book, posting a nasty review, you name it. The mind games writers play to sabotage their creativity are endless.
Remember the meme with the wild-haired kid, shoes off and arms flailing?
Dance like no one is watching.
There is a lot of freedom in doing something that isn’t evaluated by other people. It’s your dance, and you have permission to get crazy and out of step. Your dance can even be ugly. Who cares?
What if you wrote like no one was reading? Try this: open a document—or flip to a page in your notebook—and tell yourself what you are about to write is for your eyes only. What do you feel like writing? Maybe a poem about loss, a humorous essay about your pet, or a book review about that memoir you just finished? What about a letter to the editor about an issue you’re passionate about or stream-of-thought consciousness about the meaning of life? You can do that, you know. Write something without the imaginary reader looking over your shoulder and with no intention of letting it see the light of day. Maybe that will make your fingers fly a little faster over the keyboard and keep the voices at bay—the ones that remind you someone might not like what you write.
Do this, but before you discard what you’ve written, find a safe place to keep it for a while. In a couple of weeks, take it out, read it again, and think about whether this piece of writing should stay in the dark. If the answer is yes, then put it away again. But maybe, with a little reshaping, what you wrote for your eyes only might be worthy of a few other eyes. If you free yourself to write like no one is reading, you might find you’ve written something worth publishing. If not, that’s okay. You’ve given yourself the chance to put words on the page, finished your thoughts and heightened your creativity. And that’s a gift worth giving yourself.