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Jane Smiley on getting out of your own way:

… you cannot be judging yourself as you write the first draft—you want to harness that unexpected energy, and you don’t want to limit the possibilities of exploration. You don’t know what you’re writing until it’s done. So if a draft is 500 pages long, you have to suspend judgment for months. It takes effort to be good at suspending at judgment, to give the images and story priority over your ideas…

I think there are two kinds of sentences in a rough draft: seeds and pebbles. If it’s a pebble, it’s just the next sentence and it sits there. But if it’s a seed it grows into something that becomes an important part of the life of the novel. The problem is, you can’t know ahead of time whether a sentence will be a seed or a pebble, or how important a seed it’s going to be…

This, of course, is easier said than done. We’ve all been stuck at the desk, agonizing over the drivel we’ve been turning out and questioning the entire vocation. But just stick with it and (for a little while at least) ignore the inner critic. If you don’t have any raw material to work with, then there’s nothing to chisel and hone into something beautiful later on.