Good Writer, Gone Bad: how letting myself suck made me a better writer



Ugh, I suck.


Why can't I get this sentence right?


No one is going to like this plot.


I'm a terrible writer.


I should just give up.



Does this sound familiar? It does to me. This was the mantra I had in my head for years as I attempted to write a novel, grew frustrated that it wasn't perfect, and then gave up. I'd start it again, thinking this time it would be different and better. But I always ended up in the same place. Stuck in the middle of some novel that I never managed to finish.


And then I just stopped writing....


I gave up something I loved, because I was afraid that I sucked.


Then one day I decided to try writing one more time. I started writing, only I did something profoundly different.


I told myself that I sucked.


AND THAT WAS OKAY!


Once I accepted my own suck-age, these five wonderful things happened:


#5: I FINISHED THAT DAMN FIRST DRAFT.



When you let go of perfection, it's amazing how freeing it is. When I began writing the book I'm about to start querying, I set only one expectation for myself: FINISH.


It doesn't have to be perfect. It doesn't even have to be right. It just has to be done.


With this new mindset, I just wrote. Thanks to a surgery that took me from working 2000 hours a week to sitting in bed doing nothing, I had plenty of time on my hands. So I wrote...and wrote...and wrote...


When I knew I didn't have it exactly right, it didn't matter, I just kept writing.


When I struggled with a piece of dialogue or a description, I didn't overthink it or get bogged down. I just wrote it as best as I could. I'd have time to fix it later.


Two weeks later, I was holding a first draft of my novel in my hands.


I'm not promising it will help you write in two weeks--I literally had nothing else to do. But if the voice of perfection is what is keeping you from writing the first draft, please take my advice. Let go of perfection. Tell yourself that it's okay to suck.


I have used this technique in my new work in progress. Good Lord, I have so many notes about scenes that will have to be redone. But I'm not going back to fix it. Not now.


Right now, I am just gathering up the sand.


Then the glorious sandcastle can be made.


#4: WRITING BECAME FUN AGAIN.


Feeling anxious because you can't get this exact scene right isn't fun. Not in the least. But letting go of perfectionism in that first draft let me enjoy writing so much more. I wrote fearlessly. I had a blast. And I believe that it shows.


There were parts in my rough draft that had to be chopped off mercilessly. But because I was writing bravely, there are moments that are hilarious and lines that I adore. Things that I didn't expect, but are now a gorgeous part of my book. I don't think I would have come up with them if I hadn't been able to let go of my anxiety and just write.


#3: I totally crushed WRITER'S BLOCK.



Margaret Atwood is perfection. Every word she writes is like the breath of a goddess. Anyone who thinks differently can fight me. So when I found this quote that she wrote, it astonished me. Doesn't writing just come easily for her? No, not even for Margaret freakin' Atwood. It definitely won't come easily for us, and so often, that traps us.


I truly believe that at the core of a lot of writer's block is perfectionism...or let's call it as it is: FEAR.


This is certainly what gives me writer's block. I got stuck not because I didn't know what I wanted to say. I got stuck because I was afraid I wouldn't say it well enough. That is a trap I couldn't climb out of. I know a lot of really good author's that this is what stops them. They spend days on a single passage because they overthink how exactly to get it right, instead of just writing it down.


Sylvia Plath says that "the worse enemy to creativity is self-doubt". And boy, she's right.


Now that I've accepted that I'm allowed to suck I've gained power. Now, when self-doubt threatens to cripple me, I tell it to"Shut the #@$& up, thank you very much!"


And I keep writing.


#2: I FELL IN LOVE WITH A VISION, NOT A PRODUCT.