Writing Dysmorphia

During my MFA program, I came up with the term ‘writing dysmorphia’ to describe a commonly occurring stage of the creative process. During a project when the creative window is open, everything you create is magic and you are certain the whole world will love what you are making. I found that there are things you can do to keep the window open and there are things you can do to slam it shut.

A great way to keep the window open is to take advice I stole from Stephen King. Don’t show anyone your first draft, and when it’s done only show a few people that you trust. Sometimes it’s not even a matter of not trusting someone, rather it might just be that the lens with which they examine your work is not a lens you need.

I’ve lost the wind out of my sails many times with many projects. This is the writing dysmorphia stage. This is when my work stops looking magical and starts looking awful. I’ll suddenly see everything under a disfiguring microscope. Writing gets even harder at this point, when I am too close to the project.

The good news is that I’ve come to learn that this stage is always temporary and there are things I can do to open the window again. One step is to take a break, rest my eyes and let the project marinate. I have plenty of other tasks and projects to turn my attention to. Another step is to have my number one trustworthy supporter (the boyfriend) remind me why my project is so awesome.

Sometimes I just have to wait it out, but knowing that it is just a brief storm to weather makes it a lot more bearable.


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