Many, many moons ago I believed that if a person wanted to be a writer they had to be born to it. Words would unravel from their minds, and lay delicate upon the page, eager to please, much like the Pied Piper and his millions of rats.
A real writer need only sing the notes and masterfully written words would appear on the page. Now, I am sure there are some people out there like that, people we will not name should they be tracked down and beaten. ( Just playing..sort of) Luckily, well at least for the rest of us poor shmucks who toil away at the screen with little or no success, real writers..true blue honest to goodness writers are just like us. They work their a**es off with weeks, months and even years of practice. Many writers take classes, read writing reference books, and practice daily to improve and/or maintain their skills.
Writing is not easy and the best and possibly worst part about writing is that you are allowed, nay expected to write a ton of crap before you write much of anything good. As is drilled into your brain by Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird and Writing down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, your rough draft is just that. Rough. If we as writers are consistently expecting perfection the first time around we will be just as consistently disappointed. Let’s take a look at the PRO’s and CON’s of writing crap, because as any knowledgable writer will attest to, useless drivel does arrive on the paper.
-Writing crap happens when you allow yourself to just write, pushing your editor mind back into its little cage and letting your creative mind run free. When you fall into this “zone” you will get some bad writing, sure, but you will also travel down paths you never would have thought of, had your editor been allowed to roam around inside your skull.
-Writing crap takes a lot less time than writing perfection, and you can always go back and fix things. You will need to, believe me.
-Writing crap can lead to a very tender state of mind..You will imagine that others are reading and judging your work, you’ll panic at the thought of your “art” ever becoming public. Self-conscious people will start to wear bigger clothes in shades that match the walls…hoping…praying that no one will notice them. Confident people will begin to read their work and curse themselves for even trying, scanning the meaningless words, sentences, and paragraphs that they thought would eventually become a story.
So let’s address this situation. We are expected to write crap by other writers…Check, the Professionals deem it ok. So why wont we let ourselves write crap? The Pro’s far outweigh the Con’s, and if we mentally prepare ourselves for the editing process there is great potential for some incredible creative avenues. Avenues that you can add shiny objects and bright lights to at a later date. So why are we so hard on ourselves? Here is my theory..
1. We are our worst critic. It’s true, whether it comes about because of body image or creative talent, we individually set a higher standard for ourselves than any one else ever would. I have said mean things to myself, things I wouldn’t be caught dead saying to another person.Why? Because I wouldn’t want to hurt their feelings, nor would I ever think of them in that light. Yet my own tender sensibilities are not thought of in the slightest.
2. Non-writers don’t understand the process. I believe that people who don’t write find it a strange idea indeed to settle for mediocre work..What they don’t get is that this crappy semblance of a story can and will become something worth reading. It depends on how much work we put into it and how dedicated we are, but the first step is just to get your thoughts down on paper. Having someone ask you over and over and over… “Oh, you wrote 1000 words today? That’s great, but are you happy with them?” Happy with them?! Am I supposed to be?
So, now we know that it is ok to let the junk out of the back yard, and there is a line between being hard on yourself and being downright destructive. Now, here is where I sneak backwards…
Saying that you should write junk is pushing it, knowing that some of the things you write will be, is acceptable. Writing should be a creative and enjoyable experience, not time spent ripping your hair out. But, the same can be said about editing. If we as writers don’t keep in mind our knowledge of plot, structure, and writing powerful scenes using tension and conflict we can end up with a pile of chapters that resembles nothing close to a story.
In conclusion…Write for the hell of it, enjoy every moment, and let your editor mind take a break every once in a while, but when you get the chance, remember that your story needs a plot, and any preparation done while writing can lead to an easier time during those dreaded hours of editing. I keep a WIP journal in which every few days I glue a printed out copy of a short summary I try to write for each one of my chapters. I also write down research, general ideas for the story, character descriptions, and possible names to use. When I want to reassure myself that the story is headed in the right direction I can simply open up my WIP journal and read over my summaries. It’s a quick and efficient way to skim your chapters without getting lost in the details of that first draft.
Cheers, be kind to yourself, and happy writing!