I don’t claim to be a good writer. In fact, whenever a new review shows up on my book’s page on Goodreads or Amazon, I instinctively think, Go read something better!!! before making myself read the review.
I don’t write every day. When I do NaNo, it takes me months to finish the story (or, in the pathetic case of Sneakers and Hot Fudge Sundaes, I get to the second-to-last chapter, completely lose faith in the story, and never finish). I haven’t worked on The Art of Letting Go since like May (and I’m trying to resign myself to the fact that I’ll probably have to put it away ’til next year). More often than not, I feel like my writing is terrible. More often than not, I feel like every hour-long writing session needs a month-long revision session.
This is probably why I’ve never really posted any writing advice on my blog. I feel like I have nothing to give, no wisdom to offer, nothing besides a halfhearted, “Well, I’m just trudging along with the rest of you, so here’s a slice of cake and a glass of water to help us going.”
Today, I’ve decided to share what I’ve learned when facing my writing when I think it sucks. I don’t know everything about writing – far from it – but here are a few things I’ve learned.
It’s not about you. Your writing – no matter how sucky, how terrible, how jaw-droppingly horrific – is not a reflection of who you are as a person. Terrible writing doesn’t equal a terrible person, just like phenomenal writing doesn’t equal a phenomenal person. End of story.
Is it your state of mind? Before you rip up your papers, throw your notebook into a fire, or delete all of your Word documents, consider this – is it just terrible because you’ve been staring at it for hours? (Or, in the case of NaNoWriMo, days?) If so, take. a. break. Back away, listen to music, write something else, take a walk, make some brownies. Literally do anything… except give up. After you’ve cleared your mind, wait a little longer. Then come back. You’ll have a completely different perspective and, usually, your writing will look better. And even if it doesn’t, you’ll be able to think clearer about what needs to be changed.
It will get better. It’s so hard to think positively about your writing. And no matter where you are in your writing career, there will always be someone who’s better than you. But that shouldn’t discourage you. They were where you are once, and look how far they got! Your writing may be terrible, but at least it’s better than what it was five years ago, a few months ago, and even last week. My first “novels” were awful. I cringe whenever I think of them. But they taught me how to write. They taught me how to sit down and actually put words on paper that formed the worlds I saw in my mind. If I hadn’t penned those terrible, terrible novels, I wouldn’t be where I am today. And I know I won’t be where I am in five years if I’m not where I am today. Your writing is a journey and, as long as you stay on the road, you’ll get there.
Please don’t let yourself fall into that bottomless abyss of discouragement. If you’re a writer, you spend your free time rearranging the same twenty-six letters (and then you spend the rest of your time doing it again and again and again until those twenty-six letters sound beautiful). Writers are the crafters of worlds, and we have so much at our hands. The galaxies are the limit.
Don’t stop. Keep writing. Write until your fingers bleed… and then put on band-aids and write some more. Write until you’re amazed at what you’ve accomplished. It’ll happen. You can do it because you’ve already done it.