(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.
2/7/2012 06:44:09 am
You're right! The only way to go is up from here :) Good point.
2/7/2012 08:58:54 am
I threw away my very first "novel." -sigh- It makes me so sad to think about it.
7/14/2012 01:06:52 pm
Could not agree more,
2/7/2012 01:53:26 am
Grreat post. I love how you consider waiting until you are 99. I have had that discussion with myself many times. Yes, we do all suck. I also love your moto.
2/7/2012 06:46:01 am
The 99 option sounds good, doesn't it?
2/7/2012 06:47:00 am
You are not alone! We're all sucking together and it's great?
2/7/2012 06:47:48 am
That was supposed to be an ! not a ?
2/7/2012 06:48:55 am
Thanks so much for saying that :) I really appreciate it.
2/7/2012 05:27:48 am
That is a great way to see things..I will have to start using that psychology!!!
2/7/2012 06:50:10 am
Come join the anit-positive movement :)
2/7/2012 07:41:04 am
Nodding my head the whole time! I love writing because I love learning. I know I suck and I can't wait to learn and get better. That's part of the fun... the challenge.
2/7/2012 08:38:29 am
Great entry! I keep a very early story of mine on hand just so I can read it every year and reflect on how I once thought it was brilliant prose.
2/7/2012 04:32:39 pm
Trouble is, my old stuff often seems better than what I'm doing now -- or at least, it used to take less effort to produce work at a similar level. I sometimes feel like I'm going backwards -- but thanks for your encouraging words!
2/11/2012 10:40:18 pm
I always find it a little sickening to reread things I wrote years ago. I'm constantly adjusting things in my head and wondering why I ever continued to call myself a writer. Some days I really wish I hadn't. But there are days when it seems kind of appropriate.
3/12/2012 10:35:25 pm
I think this is similar to my, "The first draft just needs to be done. Forget about it being good. Editing is for trying to repair all the garbage you threw in."
3/13/2012 02:03:38 am
I needed this today! After a few random bad reviews, one of which literally said, "This book sucked," and I quote, reading this helped change my evolving perspective on writing as a journey, rather than a destination. I think there is a kind of freedom in sucking. By that I mean, as you mentioned, once you think "this is a masterpiece, every word is locked in genius," you are bound to fail. But if you think, 'I'm going to write and enjoy the process knowing this will be THE BEST I CAN WRITE RIGHT NOW but it may, in fact, suck and I'm okay with that.' That's it; my new motto: "there is freedom in suckage!"
3/13/2012 02:04:52 am
PS: I absolutely LOVE the covers for the "Zombie West" series; going on my TBR pile immediately, they are!!!!
3/17/2012 11:12:14 pm
Wonderful post - I don't want to suck but I totally accept that I'm not little miss perfect just yet (and I'm never likely to be) but writing is a passion that I'm going to have forever so there's always hope that one day I'll manage to write something to be proud of!
7/29/2012 10:36:05 am
Thanks for sharing this. I am in the process of writing two books, one a fiction and the other a devotional....and they both suck! However now that I see I am not the only one who feel this way, I will pick my head up and continue on climbing this mountain!
12/14/2012 11:45:51 am
I always read this for inspiration.
Leave a Reply.