Saturday, August 30, 2008

Yet another anecdote about writing crap

Sometimes you have to allow yourself to write badly - Bird By Bird, paraphrased

Novels are my main love. That said, a writer has to earn bread somehow, and so I’ve been doing a bit of journalism for a local paper. One thing I learned is that every piece does not have to be perfect, specifically when the deadline is tomorrow and you’re out of coffee. People don’t really expect their work to be perfect, but I think the unconscious drive is still there. Do better. Be better. Better better better.

Fun story: one night I’d been working on a piece for hours. I could not get the lead to match up with the body. I’d fiddled with that lead for two days. It wasn’t getting any better. In general, if I can do more, I’m not satisfied until I’ve done the most I can. But that time I stopped myself. I realized I’d done the best I could – for that piece.

It was an “ah-hah” moment. If something is at it’s best – even if that means it’s at its worst – you haven’t failed. You aren’t sucking. You aren’t refusing to grow. You’re writing because you’re a writer and sometimes, writers suck. In a way, you’ve still done the best you can.

It’s the same for writing crap. You acknowledge that you can do better, but for whatever reason, it’s the best you can do for this scene and this day. You’ll take a second pass on the next draft. That simple. If it means letting a piece suck, well, sucky is the best it can be.

How do all of you feel about this? Have you come to similar conclusions? I think that each person finds their own ways of saying the same basic things. How do you reason with yourself when it comes to writing crap? 

-Creative A


Anonymous said...

I agree with you. I think it's this feeling that you can always do more that keeps some people from submitting their work to agents, publishers, etc.

It's nice that in journalism, you have a deadline, but when we're writing novels, we could potentially spend forever working the project over. Then, no one would ever see it and we'd have no chance in moving forward with our careers. I finally decided this for my project I'm submitting now and it's out in the world.

Creative A said...

I think Monica Wood talked about that in her book The Pocket she thinks being too obsessed about one project can actually be a reverse-form of writer's block. There is a point where you just have to send it out.

Anonymous said...

Everyone writes amazing stuff and everyone writes sh*t. It's just a matter of letting it all out and sorting it once it's on paper. Sometimes bad writing is the block itself and you need to just write it in order to clear the way for the good stuff. Every writer is allowed to suck. It's important that you write, regardless of the quality.

Creative A said...

Yeah, I agree with you Aaron. Sometimes I feel like I just have to unclog my pipes of all the crap, so I can get to the good stuff. Everybody has those days.

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