Every once in a while, you’ll write something you wish you could erase. And hey, with just a few frustrated pinky jabs into your delete key, that wish is easily self-granted if its just you and your word processor. If you’ve written something terrible and posted to social media, I can’t help you.
There’s nothing wrong with you if you think you’ve written something awful.
I mean it. There’s not. I do it all the time, and I’m completely normal.
Okay, I’m not. But if everyone just admitted to being weird already, weird could become the new normal and we wouldn’t have to keep worrying about it so much.
Everyone, no matter how good you are at writing, writes terrible things. I’m not talking about dark things, taboo things or cliché things. Terrible writing. Disappointing sentence structure, plots with holes, bad dialogue, any kind of bad writing, that’s what this post is about.
I don’t think it’s a terrible thing … to write terribly.
We should all dare to do it.
Obviously, I have a few good reasons why.
Occasionally, we just get bored
I attribute about 86 percent of all “writer’s block” to boredom. Sometimes we can just burn ourselves out trying to write the perfect scene, trying to finish a certain passage, hoping we’ll soon be able to embarrass ourselves as we engage in our “I finished my novel” celebratory happy dances.
Working on the same thing for too long, wanting to be good at it, there’s nothing wrong with either of these things. But we come to a crossroads when we’ve been staring at our screens long enough to realize we’re not making any progress: do we push through it, or, at least temporarily, move on to something else?
Sometimes pushing through it is the right answer, but the consequence is it might not be your best work. I’m as Type A as they come; I hate writing when I’m not at my best. But sometimes you have to, to pull yourself out of the motivation drought. The good thing is, you can always go back and touch it up later.
Frequently, we need someone to remind us to keep working
Every once in awhile, you’ll write something pretty awesome. A dialogue between two characters leaps off the page. You laugh out loud at your own pun. Life is beautiful. Cherish these moments, definitely. But don’t bask in them too long.
I’ve said it many times (at least in my own head): the work of a writer never ends. My veteran College Lifestyles teams will recite my motto in their sleep: there is always room to grow. Improvement over time is how I measure the success of a writer. I don’t care if you’re not ever going to write something as well-crafted as “Looking for Alaska.” If you can show me progress, I’ll always remember you as brilliant.
Just because you do something well, once, doesn’t mean you’ll do it well forever. I write every day. Not always because I want to, but because to me, writing is like exercise. I feel completely out of sorts when I don’t do it. You have to keep at it. Even if it’s a few sentences scrawled out on the back of a receipt. Even if it’s the worst chapter you’ve ever written (you think). It might be bad writing. But you are not necessarily a bad writer. You will always have the opportunity to go back and rewrite it. Until it gets printed. If. When!
Most of the time, we underestimate ourselves
Sometimes, in the middle of writing a blog post, I’ll sit back and think to myself, “Wow. This is not going well. I should start over.” But it’s halfway done and I don’t like quitting. So I’ll finish word-vomiting and post it, and by some miracle you all like it. And repeat.
I’m just at that stage in my [not-yet-a] writing career where I hate most of my own work. Some live in that stage even after it does become a career, and that’s pretty much normal. Better than believing you’re the John Green kind of amazing when you’re not there yet (could anyone ever be?).
Even if you think what you’re writing belongs in the far reaches of cyberspace and nowhere else, you have to learn you probably won’t like a lot of what you publish in your lifetime. If you hold yourself back and only show off things you think you’ve done well, you’re just not going to make it. Not because you’re a terrible writer, but because there could be some good stuff tucked away on your hard drive, and no one knows about it except you.
The same way we should all embrace our weirdness, you need to accept, and be proud of, your terribly written things. You’re not always going to be at the top of your game. I have a midterm this week. I hate tests. More importantly, I hate this post.
But I have a feeling someone out there won’t.
And if I’m wrong, well, I’ll refer back to point number two.
Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.
A recent graduate with a B.A. in English and a completed major in nutrition, currently seeking a graduate degree in health communication, Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and dietetics. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi (and the mastermind behind this site), Meg is an editor for College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine’s Stone Soup. She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink magazine. Follow Meg on Twitter.
4 thoughts on “Why We Should Dare to Write Terribly”
Good advice. Losing any self-consciousness about your bad writing is the best way to stay productive. Remember: all first drafts are terrible. Writing something terribly is just par for the course.