19 April 2013 - 6:21 pm

Random Writing Tip #3: Suck

You could make as much sense as this sign. Or be this creepy and wrong. The choice is yours! (Picture by Auntie P)

You could make as much sense as this sign. Or be this creepy and wrong. The choice is yours!
(Picture by Auntie P)

Writers have many stumbling blocks when it comes to putting words down on paper, including desire for quality and perfection, and fear of sucking. Here’s one tip to help you get past that.

You’re going to write crap. The sooner you accept this, the better.

Harsh? Maybe. But let’s be honest: everyone writes crap. Every writer needs to be edited before their words reach the outside world (and anyone who tells you different is lying or deluded).

But the thing to remember is: it’s okay to write crap. In fact, it’s better to write crap than to write nothing at all, because crap can be edited and made into something good. As I’ve seen attributed to several different writers: “I can edit a bad page, but I can’t edit a blank one.”

Letting the fear of sucking stop you from writing isn’t helpful or productive. Writers write, and if what you write sucks, you’re still a writer. Later, you can be an editor, and that’s when the gold starts to appear.

So let it happen. Let yourself suck. Can’t find the perfect place to start? Or that one ideal word that will break the seal on your virgin paper and spill forth brilliance? That’s because it’s busy folicking with the unicorns and fairies.

Pick any word. Pick a stupid one. Grab the first thing that pops into your head and put it down. Know you’re going to delete it? No problem, but follow it up with some other words first.

Experiment. If you’re not sure what that beautifully honed start looks like, try writing six different ones. Try writing everything that comes after that start, and then come back and decide which one works best. Some of them will be terrible. That’s fine. You’ve learned. You’ve moved on. And you’ll have the chance to whittle whatever’s left into the shape you really want it to be.

Don’t let perfection hold you back, because it doesn’t exist. Real life is dirty, flawed, and can always be improved upon, and writing is no different. Make a mess. Get drunk, do something ridiculous, do something inadvisable, vomit all over the floor, and then squint at it through the haze of your hangover*. Regret it? All of it? Are you sure?

Writers are special people who are perfectly capable of polishing a turd into a diamond. But first, you have to have the turd.

Go ahead. Suck hard. It’ll be worth it in the end when you’ve got words on the page that you can make into a story. When you show the world your diamond, none of them will guess that it started life as a stumbling, gross thing; all they’ll see is the diamond.

(*This is intended as a metaphor, but feel free to indulge in any way you please.) 

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  1. Francisco says:

    I think I’ll bookmark this page just to remind me.

    April 20th, 2013 at 3:16 am

  2. Mel says:

    Awesome, glad you find it useful, Francisco! 🙂

    April 24th, 2013 at 4:39 pm