Thursday, November 10, 2011

Allowing Yourself to Write Badly

I'd rather not try than fail.  - Esme Rajii Codell, Sahara Special

I'll admit it... I'm a perfectionist.  I hate it.

Of all the areas of my life that perfectionism affects adversely, I think it's my writing that suffers the most from it.  Why?   The quotation above says it all.  I simply can't stand the idea of failing at something I consider myself good at.  I can read as many inspirational quotes as I can stomach about how failure is essential to success, about how nothing great was ever achieved without failure.  It doesn't make it any easier - so I stagnate. 

I think it's because, for so many years growing up, I considered myself a failure at pretty much everything. Writing was one of the few things I knew I did well... knew I did better than most.  I was terrified of failing at it, because if I did, I'd have nothing.  The fear is still with me, even now.

I tell my students that first drafts are just that - first drafts.  That all writers revise.  That nobody - but NOBODY - gets it right on the first try.  The only student who doesn't believe it is the sixth grade girl who still lives inside of me, clutching her journal and refusing to let anyone read it. I get so worked up, sometimes, trying to get the story perfect in my head that it doesn't LEAVE my head - just like so many stories back then never left my journal.  And that, I think, is the kiss of death for any writer.  If you don't write, you can't ever be published.  You can't ever be a success.

My goal for tonight, then, is to allow myself to write badly.  To force myself to write badly, if the words won't come out any other way.  To write CRAP, if that's all I can manage.  To just WRITE, and to get the silly story about the ninja gerbils out and down on paper so that I can go back to it later and make it better.  After all... writing something is better than writing nothing at all, isn't it?

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