Friday, March 28, 2014

Bad Writing Is Better Than Not Writing At All

Once I had an idea for a short story that consumed me. I even wrote bits of it on scrap paper while I was at work. From beginning to end, the whole thing took a couple of days. I tweaked it a bit when I was done, but how I first wrote it was how it appeared in the finished version. It was a quick and easy process, like taking dictation.

Unfortunately, that never happened again. Some days my writing flows better than others. Some days I feel more inspired than others. But it always takes months, even years for a story to go from the germ of an idea to a completed work that’s ready for publication.

Writer’s block is something I deal with on a daily basis.

I always think of it as a logistics problem, because that’s usually how it works for me. My characters are in one place and I need to get them someplace else. For example, Mary and Bob are washing dishes together in the kitchen. (OK, so no one washes dishes anymore--let’s say this is a period piece). They don’t know it, but there’s a dead body in the living room. To move the story along, either Bob or Mary needs a reason to go to the living room.

I want to get them out of the kitchen with style and grace and a bit of pizazz. It’s got to be exciting, razor sharp prose. I’m a writer, dammit! I should be able to come up with something besides “Bob went into the living room.” 

So I sit and stare at the screen. I type “asdfasdfasdfasdfasdff” with my left hand and hit the delete button a couple of times. I might even pull up the Solitaire program and fool around with that for a while. I’d go on the internet to check my email but I use an old laptop with no wifi connection, so that’s not an option. 

Then I take a look at my special inspiration file. It says “It’s OK to write bad. Just write.”

So I write “Bob went into the living room,” and go on.

Because you have to write bad to write good. (Please forgive my grammatical lapses. I do know I’m supposed to use “badly” and “well” when modifying a verb like “write”). Bad writing can be fixed. It’s been my experience that once you start writing, no matter how crappy you think it is, rest assured that you will come up with something better than “Bob went into the living room.”

Give yourself permission to write boring, dull prose. You can always fix it later. What you can’t do is edit a blank page.

Don’t leave Bob and Mary in the kitchen.

Judy Nichols is the author of several books available on Amazon/

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