Closing The Creative Gap Between What You Imagine and What You Write

The Gap Between What You Imagine and What You WriteTrying to play the piano can be humbling. You dream of executing a Bach fugue in perfect timing, but when you sit down it’s chopsticks or nothing. Writing is a lot like that, too. An amazing scene plays out in your mind, but after your critique group reviews your rendition, you wonder how you ever thought you could write.

Welcome to the imperfect world of creative artistry. Check your ego at the door. It can’t help and may hinder your efforts to bridge the gap between what you imagine and what you can create.

Let’s go back to that piano. Even when you love playing and have a natural affinity for music, to play well you’ll probably need lessons. In the same way, studying the craft is one of the surest ways to advance your writing skills.

But studying itself won’t teach you to write any more than watching the teacher play improves a musician’s abilities. Long, laborious, tedious practice is required. Yes, there are a (very) few musical and literary geniuses in the world, but for most of us practice is what it takes to become a master. Could that be why an art is called a discipline?

At times you’ll want to bang your head against the keyboard in frustration. It becomes easier to make excuses not to practice than to face that tell-tale gap between what you can imagine and what you actually write. Are these dues of time, money, effort, and disillusionment worth paying?

Only you can decide.

Thankfully, the gap narrows with time and effort, but it never completely goes away. Living with that reality is a cost every writer continues to pay. It is also a gift that helps keep us humble.

If you persevere you may reach a comfortable level of proficiency with the pain of your early efforts only an unpleasant memory. This may result in you having less patience with beginning writers and even a feeling of superiority. The temptation to skimp on improving your abilities will be stronger. If the gap will never close, why not save your time, money, and effort and settle for doing an adequate job?

Having a good work ethic can see you through those times when you lose your desire to write with excellence. Is it worth the trouble? That’s up to you to decide, too. However, in a crowded literary marketplace, it isn’t hard to be lost in the shuffle.

It helps to be clear on why and for whom you’re writing. Whether you’re writing to make your mark, to reach a particular audience, or to glorify God, close enough is never good enough.

Writing with excellence is a self-taught skill that, oddly enough, requires you to face and accept your imperfections.

7 Replies to “Closing The Creative Gap Between What You Imagine and What You Write”

  1. Janalyn! A really good, clear-eyed piece calling us all to the constant work of crafting words. And I agree—constantly reminding ourselves why we’re writing and for whom we’re writing can help keep us focused and persevering. I love this last line! “Writing with excellence is a self-taught skill that, oddly enough, requires you to face and accept your imperfections.”

  2. Nice post, Janalyn! Having banged away at the piano keys eons ago–and for years now on the computer keyboard–this one hits home for sure. And what an important reminder: “It helps to be clear on why and for whom you’re writing.” I also appreciate your closing sentence. Thank you!.

  3. Ditto on loving your closing statement. I agree. How can we ever improve if we don’t accept our weaknesses & learn from our failures? Good word, Janalyn.

  4. This post caught my eye from the start. I’ve had so many scenes that, when first conceived, are bold and enthralling. But when I’ve written the same scene I look at it and think “Well that’s just not how I imagined it”. I can usually get the jist of it across, but getting “the jist” isn’t what we writers aim to do.

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