I have talked to so many would-be writers whose writing dreams stalled before they had begun and all for the same reason: when they started writing, what they wrote was so bad they just couldn’t continue. What if they just weren’t good enough to be a writer? What if they were doing it wrong? It stopped them in their tracks and arrested any forward progress they were making on their dreams.
What I tell these writers is the same thing I will say to you: you will write poorly. It is a natural part of the writing life. There is not one of us that vomits forth a perfect bit of writing every time. We refine and revise and rewrite to get to those lovely sentences you see in the finished work, but those words did not start out like that.
The following is an adapted excerpt from Building a Writing Life: start a writing habit, find time to write, discover your process and commit to your writing dreams available now in paperback and eBook.
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Let yourself write poorly
We talked before about giving yourself permission to write. Part of that is giving yourself permission to write badly. To clomp your way through that delicate idea, to butcher grammar and string cliches together like a garland, and make an absolute mess of the nicely ordered story in your head. You will write badly, and it’s only by writing badly, by getting it down no matter how ugly, that you can move forward with your writing goals and get to the next stage.
Here’s the thing about lousy writing: You’re an awful judge of it. Most of the time, the writing you thought was the worst of the worst turns out to be just as good as that paragraph that convinced you the Pulitzer was yours. When you look at your writing later, it’s never as bad as you thought it was. Time provides precious perspective on our writing. And even if some time off from it proves that it is truly the greatest pile of garbage ever put to the page, you are still better off having written it than not because any progress is better than none.
Get used to writing poorly. Relish in it. Because it means you are a real writer, one who writes even when the words don’t flow like magic. And because bad writing means you’re still at least making steady progress on your writing goals.