The Writer’s Li: A Pep Talk

So here we are, guys. We’re almost two weeks into NaNoWriMo.

Whether or not you’re participating in NaNo this year, getting words out of your head and onto a page is super hard. And there’s a chance that the story that you’re writing down looked much nicer when it was in your head.

Once it’s on the paper, it doesn’t make sense. It looks too bizarre, too fantastical. Or it’s been done before. Nobody will take an interest in it.

It’s not good enough for the world. It’s not perfect.

First of all, shut up, Inner Editor.

Second, I’m not going to get preachy and say how your voice is unique and your story is good enough for the world because you wrote it. There are plenty of places to find that feel-good rhetoric on the internet.

Instead, I’m going to tell you a tiny story, and hopefully, if your writing isn’t where you want it to be, it’ll make you feel a bit better.

The Story

One of the classes I’m taking at school this year is AP Art History. In addition to looking at artwork and architecture from different cultures throughout history, we sometimes have to complete graded sketches that use the concepts and topics we learn about in class.

Our latest unit was art from the ancient and medieval Far East, mostly India, China, and Japan. A lot of the pieces we need to know for the AP test are sacred objects and temples, so we studied the fundamentals of some major Eastern religions – namely Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism – before looking at the artwork from those cultures.

Right before we started looking at the art, our teacher gave us an assignment: sketch the shadows of nine naturally occurring objects, in order to capture the li of each of them.

(Side note: Li is the Confucian term for what is proper. I don’t claim to understand it in-depth, since I’m not a Confucianist, but I think of li as the word for a deliberate, ritualized lifestyle that tries to uphold the natural order and essence of the world.)

Naturally, lots of kids in my class started freaking out. “I can’t draw; how am I supposed to get the shadows right? Especially since we have to draw the shadows without drawing the objects? What if I mess up?”

My teacher responded to everyone by saying, “You can capture the li of something without making it perfect!”

And that stuck with me.

It’s possible to capture the essence of something without being perfect.

As writers, we set up all kinds of routines to follow, whether that’s finishing a new scene every day, getting something written during lunch, writing 1,667 words per day for a month, or anything in between. And if something falls short of what we expect, it can be discouraging.

But we’ve all heard that no book comes out perfect in one draft. Never mind that; that’s why we rewrite. And rewrite. And rewrite. But after so many drafts, the book still isn’t perfect.

And that’s okay.

Writing any story well requires some level of passion. That’s the essence of your book.

And as long as your passion is showing through, the book is alright. Sure, some of the scenes might need to be reworked, and some of the dialogue might need to be tightened up. But as long as that essence is there – that li – then it’s worth it.

Keep writing, guys!

~~Mandy

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ahberry

ahberry

Hi guys! I'm a 17-year-old nerd with a passion for the written word. When I'm not on here, I'm probably sleeping, binge-watching YouTube, or perhaps actually writing. For more of me, follow me on Instagram (@ahberryhere)

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