Monday, November 10, 2008

"Give Yourself Permission to Suck"-best advice of the day

Bill Cameron did a workshop at Wordstock this weekend. He sent me a copy of the handout for his class.

Much of it is damn good. Certain parts are brilliant. This is my favorite right now:

Give yourself permission to suck. Whenever I read about a writer who produces "clean first drafts" I think Good for you. Now shut up. Which is not to say that I think producing clean first drafts is bad. If you have that skill, wonderful.

But too many prospective writers give up because they feel their first efforts are not good enough. If you can't write clean first drafts, at least write a first draft. You can always fix it later. But if you let your internal editor stop you before you even start, you'll never get anything done.


Bill is one smart guy. Can write a little too.

19 comments:

Just_Me said...

Very true. You have to start with something. Even if it's horrible and grammatically incorrect.

My friend always says, "You don't have to write well to get published. You have to edit well to get published."

Sheila Lamb said...

I feel much better...in the editing process (again) now!

Jena said...

Yes! Whenever I run into people who want to write but don't think they're good enough, I tell them about the "Shitty First Drafts" chapter in Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird.

Kristin Laughtin said...

I love advice like this. Sometimes you just need to get words down before you can worry about them being perfect.

Theo Lynne said...

This couldn't have come at a better time. I checked my blogs to avoid working on my NaNo first draft and I was avoiding working on that because I'm too worried that it sucks.

Thanks for posting this!

Jack Roberts, Annabelle's scribe said...

Great advice! Thank you.

DeadlyAccurate said...

Yeah, this is the reason I do my first drafts with pen and paper, sitting on the couch, while listening to music. All of it is designed to make my inner editor shut the hell up. (Well, that and keep from getting distracted by the Internet).

magdalune said...

I'll agree with someone above me. I've been thinking I'm the worst writer alive while getting through NaNoWriMo, but this helps a little. :)

Kerry said...

"Give yourself permission to suck" is actually a direct line from my syllabus! It's always my first advice to people about writing... other stuff, too...

Steve Ulfelder said...

Well put, Bill. When I'm writing a first draft, the document that keeps me going is a sheet of notebook paper taped to my desk on which I note my daily word output. Getting a thousand words a day is all that matters - if they're crappy words, I'll deal with that later.

Margaret Yang said...

You can fix a bad page of writing, but you can't fix a blank one.

Brian Jay Jones said...

I posted this advice on a writer's board at one point, and was roundly berated for encouraging people to "write crap." Which completely misses the point.

There's a great story about George Harrison, when he was writing the song "Something." He went to John Lennon and sang the song, but didn't have all the lyrics.

"Something in the way she moves," George sang, then started with the next line. "Attracts me like no . . . " and stopped. "I don't know what she attracts me like," he told Lennon.

"Just put in 'a cauliflower,'" Lennon said, "and come back to it." He had confidence that his bandmate would nail it on the rewrite -- and did he ever. (For the record, the words he inserted are "no other lover." Like you needed that.)

Anyway, even John Lennon was unafraid to let himself (or others) suck.

BJ said...

Here is another great article on the topic, which came out just in time for NaNo, written by Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold:

http://www.irosf.com/q/zine/article/10480

It's all about fast writing and silencing the infernal -- I mean, internal editor.

I sent it to many of my writing friends. One actually disagreed with it. But I remain resolute in my decision to teach people that it's okay to write crappy drafts. People who *don't* write crappy first drafts usually don't write at all.

And I like the story about George and John. I may have to use it...

Crimogenic said...

Margaret Yang said...
"You can fix a bad page of writing, but you can't fix a blank one."

I couldn't agree more. I rather have 100,000 words of untamed story to start with than nothing. It's like gardening. Say your garden was run over with weed and overgrown plants, you'll have to take the time to carefully remove the weed, and groom your plants to have something beautiful.

52 Faces said...

Theo Lynne! Do your NaNo!

Add me as a buddy if you want someone who will check your word count constantly as I do mine :P
I'm YellowTypingFiend. Yes it's racial.

denese said...

"Don't get it right, get it written," was my writing instructor's mantra.

Bill Cameron said...

Thanks for the kind words, everyone. One of the first points I make whenever I give the "give yourself permission to suck," chat is it's far from my own original thought. It's just advice that bears repeating again and again. Hell, it's advice that I need to remind myself of on an almost daily basis. If I could get it tattooed on the inside of my eyelids, I probably would.

Nat said...

I completely agree. It's like art: you gotta do a rough sketch, and keep refining over and over until you get a masterpiece. Even the finest of painters started their work with some colours sploshed on the canvas.

Cutris said...

Getting someone (legitimate) to look at your manuscript is the tough part. No matter how well you write, that doesn't mean the publishers or agents will want to take the time to find out.