Awhile back, I wrote the following blog, which basically advised people to push beyond fears about instant quality in writing and just “let it suck.“ I reprint it here as the beginning of a series of blog posts that focus on getting beyond fears about writing an immediate classic and just doing the work.
Here we go:
There seems to be an abundance of writing advice on social media today, for which I am thankful. To return the favor, I want to offer writing advice I give my students: LET IT SUCK.
This advice may sound odd but it is based on the soundest of principles: Writing that sucks is infinitely easier to improve than a blank page (digital or other). Simple as that. If you allow yourself to just write a draft without worrying about wonderfulness, yes, some of it will suck.
Don’t worry, the sucky parts are easy to fix.
As dumb as it sounds, just ask yourself why the sucky part sucks (without having a meltdown) and you will see that, for example, a sentence sucks because it should actually be phrased differently, or a character would never do that, she would do this, or there is a repetitious phrase, etc.
The revelation here is that none of the “sucky parts” are insurmountable, and most often you correct these issues quickly. And, most importantly, the page is no longer blank.
Once you have a quick draft done, the job is just to move to an area of suck, address that, and then go to the next area of suck.
Each fix makes the work suck less. And you, my friend are being productive.
How do you know when it is great? When you have been through it twice and know deep inside that now you are just fussing. This is when you are ready for the big test: reading it out loud.
Don’t scoff, this is a necessary step. Reading your work out loud, in a voice and at a pace you would use when reading publicly for money, will reveal all the hidden flaws your eyes and ego hid.
Don’t meltdown over this either, just mark it, and continue with your “public reading”.
I print out my copy to do this step; it is easier to mark with a highlighter and move on than to start rewriting in the middle of a “public read”. And yes, reading it again after all this new round of fixes is key to make sure your writing is as nearly perfect as you can make it.
So, let it suck, then make it suck less, and suck less, and suck less, until it is, much to your shock and delight, great.
Keep writing, brothers and sisters.