A while back I was talking with some friends about how much easier it is to prepare to do something than it is to actually do it — and how that preparation really feels like progress, even if you aren’t moving forward at all.
It started with Hartley, who said that it’s like when you want to start exercising, but instead of getting up early to go to the gym, you go buy workout pants.
Then our friend amy said it’s so much easier to go buy the pants!
Right? And until you buy the pants you can’t work out at all.
How can you work out, when you don’t have the pants?
It really is SO much easier to go buy the pants.
You’re putting your money where your mouth is, right?
And your brain insists that this is necessary, this is progress, this is you doing something.
It all makes so much perfect sense.
Never mind that you already own pants. It’s not like you’re shopping for new pants pantsless.
Never mind that you are perfectly equipped to do whatever it is you want to do in some form right now today. Just the way you are, with what you already possess.
Maybe not perfectly. Maybe not exactly as well as you will when you own the metaphorical pants.
But the chances are very good that you don’t have to put everything on hold until you buy the stupid pants.
It’s exactly the same with writing.
Stay with me here. Do you have writing pants?
I don’t mean actual pants that you wear when writing. That would be weird. I mean — something that you feel like you have to have before you write.
Your writing pants probably look like some form of perfection. Some exact thing that has to be just right before you can actually work.
And it all makes perfect sense.
As perfect sense as staying home from the gym until you have the right pants.
Of course you can’t write the next sentence, when the sentence you’ve already written isn’t perfect.
Of course you can’t write if your muse isn’t around.
Of course you can’t write when you really need to go back and read what you’ve already written (again.)
Of course you can’t write when you suck and your story sucks and you’re just a big sucking fraud.
Of course you can’t write when you don’t have the right pants.
And what kind of monster would ask you to?
This is the head game we play with ourselves. And it’s the head game we have to tap out of if we want to get anywhere as writers.
And it’s so much easier to buy the pants.
Our brains register all that twiddling with perfectionism — the metaphorical pants buying — as writing. Never mind that it never results in an actual finished manuscript or that all it ever does is make us crazy.
It feels like writing, even if it isn’t, at the exact same time that it’s keeping us from actually writing. Brutal.
I have an absolute truth for you: You own the pants already.
Write with the tools you already have. Write with the skill you already possess. Write with the ability you’ve already developed.
You own the pants already.
When I find myself sliding into that place where I feel like I’m writing, but no writing is actually getting done, I’m going to ask myself:
Hey, Shaunta. Are you buying pants, or are you doing this thing?
What about you? Are YOU buying pants? Or are you doing this thing?
Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She is an out-of-place Nevadan living in Northwestern PA with her husband, three superstar kids, two dementia patients, a good friend, Alfred the cat, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter @shauntagrimes and is the author of Viral Nation and Rebel Nation and the upcoming novel The Astonishing Maybe. She is the original Ninja Writer.