I’m reading The Tender Bar, by J.R. Moerhringer (which is, by the way, an excellent, non-depressing memoir) and I came across this passage this morning:
…I was the ideal candidate for writer’s block. All the classic defects converged in me — inexperience, impatience, perfectionism, confusion, fear. Above all I suffered from a naive view that writing should be easy. I thought words were supposed to come unbidden. The idea that errors were stepping-stones to truth never once occurred to me, because I’d absorbed the ethos of the Times, that errors were nasty little things to be avoided, and misapplied that ethos to the novel I was attempting. When I wrote something wrong I always took it to mean that something was wrong with me, and when something was wrong with me I lost my nerve, my focus, and my will. (p.314)
That may be the best short description of what not to do when writing I have ever read. Maybe I think it’s the best because I identify with it so darn much.