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  • Writer's pictureHolly

You Can't Know What You Know Until You Know It

If I could share one important tip with writers, it would be to slow down. Take your time. Remember that this is not a race. And, this one is a really and truly can't know what you know, until you know it.

I don't know why writers expect themselves to immediately know what they need to know in order to write their stories perfectly, when they haven't even given themselves the proper time to linger in the imaginal development phase. But, unfortunately, this does seem to be a chronic condition. Most seem to expect themselves to be able to skip straight to the polished final draft, where the story is already perfectly expressed, without all the floundering that goes on in the messy middle.

Maybe it's the societal peer pressure that puts almost the entirety of value on product rather than process, that has them racing to get to the product, quick. Or maybe it's the fact that it's just so damn uncomfortable to sit with the not-knowingness that can consume creatives when they're in those beginning storytelling phases. The phase where they have way more questions than answers. But either way, making friends with this process of not knowing, is the work that needs to be done if they ever want to be able to write stories that are deep, layered and nuanced. The kind of work that moves people.

Writing is a process of discovery. If you're doing it right, you're building worlds and creating memorable characters, and that just takes the time it takes. Much like a scientist, armed with only a hypothesis and a willingness to test things out to find out whether it holds true or not, a writer has to experiment. You have to be willing to go down story wormholes, follow that tangent, test the chemistry of character relationships in your mind, get lost in research, and toy around with a plot twist only to discover it might not work because it adversely affects another storyline. And you can't know what fruit any of this will bear, until you know. So you have to willing to try stuff.

The reward for doing this, is that 9 times out of 10, those wormholes and dead ends, while potentially leading nowhere, and taking up a lot of time, do often end up leading you to your most inspired discoveries and aha's. The one's you would have never gotten to if you hadn't allowed yourself the time to indulge in that tangent. The tangent your inner critic kept screaming was a fool's errand, the entire time you were exploring it, was actually a bridge.

So again, my advice is give yourself permission to take that time. Slow down. Really try to enjoy the process. Embrace the fact that the writing process is weird. Fight the urge to care about the fact that to the outside world it might look like you're doing nothing for awhile. You're creating world's inside your head, that will eventually spill out onto the page. This is magic. It shouldn't be rushed. Your readers can wait until you have your way with this process first.

***Holly Payberg-Torroija is a writer/writing coach and founder of Loving The Process, a coaching program designed to support writers in getting out of their own way, so they can write the stories they were born to write. Book a free consult by clicking here Her next year long program starts up in September. Will you be in it?

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1 Comment

Susan Jizba
Susan Jizba
Aug 09, 2022

So very true, Holly! Thank you for telling it like it is. It makes me feel less alone in my process as a writer. This is a very helpful reminder for me that the process takes time to develop and deepen. And it is a weird process. Very weird but can be an enormously fun challenge. I like to think of writing as a “Creative Adventure”.

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