(Originally posted in August of 2011. You can check it out here. I had a couple of recent comments on that post that made me feel as though I should share it again. Also, with the finishing edits on WANTED: Dead or Dead under way, my nerves have kicked in something fierce and I needed the reminder that it's okay to suck and nobody has ever died from sucking. Things will be A-OK. It's good to suck).
You’re always going to suck at writing. That’s just the way it is. Get used to it.
AND, if you ever get to a point in which you think, “Holy Crap! I’m amazingly gifted! The words I put down on paper--every single one of them—should be read by ALL!” Then you need to stop writing. Put down the laptop, pen, pencil, whatever, and just stop. Stop it. Do not write another word.
Because once you stop thinking that you no longer suck as a writer, you stop improving.
And once you stop improving, you will become stagnant and your writing will too. You will become complacent.
As for myself, I will always, always suck at writing. That is my promise. I will never think my work is good enough. I know for a fact that even if I publish something in the near future, I will look at it knowing it could have been better, SO much better. I have no doubt.
Let me explain this suck-factor a little more: I wrote a book called “Out of My Head” a couple of years ago. I loved the story. I loved the characters. I thought it was a pretty good book. (It’s not published—thank heavens—so don’t even try Googling it).
I just looked at it the other day and realized it sucks. It really does. I wrote stuff in that book in a way I would NEVER do now—I know better. I’ve improved.
But even before “Out of My Head,” I had other stories I wrote that make “Out of My Head” look brilliant. (No one will ever, EVER see those. They are filed in a safe, which is locked, and sitting on the bottom of the sea. They’re that bad).
With every book I write, I know I’m getting better. But I realize that the stories I write today will suck in comparison to the stories I will write five years from now, ten years from now, and so on. I get that.
So what do we do? Do we wait five years from now, ten years from now? Am I to wait until I’m ninety-nine when realize that my writing is probably not going to improve anymore, since I will be dead soon, before releasing my work into the world?
In some respects, waiting until I’m ninety-nine would be good. People will look at my writing and think, “Ahh, look what the little old lady wrote. Ain’t that nice?” and give me some slack. You don’t get that kind of slack when you’re thirty-nine. In fact, people can be pretty dang mean. But waiting until I’m ninety-nine is the chicken way out.
What I do suggest is this: Embrace the idea of sucking as a writer. Just wrap that idea around yourself, like a nice snuggly coat, get comfortable, and then never take it off. Always strive to write better. Always look for ways to improve. There is NO shortcut to writing amazing stories. It’s a long, hard journey in which every step is measured. You can’t climb to the top of a mountain without first starting at the bottom. That’s just the way it is.
Above all else, be kind to other writers. Realize they suck too and they’re aware of it. They know. They’re trying. They’re somewhere on the mountain, climbing just like you. Some of us are taking baby steps. Some of us are sprinting. Regardless, no one is going to make it to the top. There is no top. There never has been.
And personally, I find that amazing.
I suck at writing. But I have a lifetime to improve.
And it’s only going to get better and better from here.