Do Not Fear A Mess
Writing is a messy process. Writing, beyond being a means to communicate, is also an art form. The best artists often create immense messes before their masterpieces emerge. Do not fear making a mess. Do not fear what it will take to clean up the mess. Creativity allows for space to make a mess.
When God, the greatest Artist in the universe, created the heavens and the earth, He began with chaos. “The earth was without form and void…”[i] God created the canvas and the paint, unformed and unmolded creation. He then took the time to form and fashion it, taking the chaotic, cosmic mess He first spoke into existence and shaping order and unspeakable beauty during creation week.
When writing, through the process of brainstorming and then drafting, first comes the mess and, over time, the mess begins to take shape. Do not allow the fear of imperfection to keep you from writing. Simply put your thoughts down. They don’t need to be pretty or even grammatically correct, yet.
If you’re writing a book, imagine it like a body built from the inside out. Underlying everything is the structure – the skeleton. The bones of your message come through initial brainstorming. These are your primary points. Then, while drafting, flesh out the body with organs, muscles, skin, and unique features. Although there are unique sections of your book, everything must ultimately work together, just like the systems within our bodies. If a section stands completely alone, consider whether it belongs in this book. It may be the beginning of another project altogether. Those final, stylistic touches which make a book your own are like the shape of your eyes or nose, like the presence of a birth mark or freckles. They make your message unique to you.
During this drafting phase, as the chaotic becomes cultivated, you can begin to consider formatting. How do you imagine the final product will look? Go visit a bookstore and peruse the many formatting options available. What stands out to you? What repels you?
Keeping this in the back of your mind during this stage of the writing process helps guide the fleshing out of this body. It keeps you focused on a particular direction and, ultimately, will help your reader follow your thought process with greater ease.
But, through it all, this first step of drafting is the time to be messy. This is the time to spew every thought down on the page. The time will soon come to clean up the mess. But that time is not during the drafting stage. If you ever watched the children’s show, The Magic School Bus, you’re certainly familiar with Ms. Frizzle’s oft-repeated motto: “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!”[ii] Despite its seemingly silly source, her advice is quite sound.
Release fear of the messy. Embrace disorder for the time being.
[i] Genesis 1:2, ESV
[ii] Ms. Frizzle’s character’s motto on The Magic School Bus