Friday, November 6, 2009

Today's Excuse: My writing is just plain BAD

-- so why bother?

Why bother? We are driven to write. We want to tell some kind of story, to share our knowledge with the world. Wannabe writers are usually avid readers. Our eyes devour beautifully crafted words that others have written. They make it look so easy, don't they? As readers, we only see the final product. George Carlin said, "The caterpillar does all the work, but the butterfly gets all the publicity." Writing is a process, it doesn't just arrive ready to take flight. We need to allow ourselves the wonderment of a "sloppy copy" and cultivate our work into swarms of butterflies.

Excuse Editor Tip: Write like Nobody's Reading

So, you think your writing may not be very good? OK, prove it. Write anyway. Pick a topic you would want to write about, if you could write well. Make an effort to write it badly. Make sure it really sucks. Read over what you've written. Does it stink to high heaven? Well, good. You've accomplished the assignment. Look outside your window. Did locusts start falling from the sky? Did the sun go dark? Don't be scared about writing badly. It happens every day, and the world keeps turning.

Read it again. Be the critic you are afraid of. Pick out five things you could change to make this awful piece better. Go ahead and make the changes. Notice how changing just a small amount of this purposefully badly written piece makes it read like an actual draft. You've just been editing. Many writers, especially beginning writers, expect that writing should appear on the page ready to go. But that's not the case. It needs to stay in its cocoon, with you, the writer, nurturing it. It doesn't have to stay in the cocoon forever. Nurture your writing for long enough, your own butterflies will emerge.

The next time you start a writing project, resist the temptation of unrealistic perfectionism. Let your first draft flow, secure in the knowledge that if it is "bad" when you are complete, that's the way it is supposed to be. Remember you are the writer and editor. You have the ability to change it. Honor the process.


  1. Tina, you are awesome! And very inspiring -- again! Paula

  2. I'm doing NaNoWriMo. And I start to think the whole thing sucks pond water. And it probably does! I've never written a novel before, just read boat loads of them. So I'm doing the writing anyway. In 5 days, I wrote 11,149 words. Haven't written in the past few days because of my busy schedule, and that's fine. My character is still talking to me. I figure it's good therapy, if nothing else. If nobody ever reads it, that's fine. The writing is what's important right now.

    Thanks for the encouragement.

  3. Pam, I think it's great that you were able to "go with the flow" and just get your character's story started. Sometimes, writing isn't about getting it out there for the world, sometimes it's about getting it out of your brain! Enjoy the journey; I suspect that you'll eventually find specks of gold in your 'pond water'.


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