You know those times where you really want to write but every sentence you type is sucky. And you try to tell yourself ‘don’t worry about it, just get it written,’ but you just don’t listen? Because you feel sucky, and you don’t want your writing to also be sucky, because then you’ll feel even more sucky?
Yeah, that was me last week.
Usually when I get like that, I take a break. It lets my brain reset and I’ll have a much easier time writing when I get back to it. But for some reason, during this break I went into a spiraling mess of self-doubt. Of my novel, my plot, my characters, my writing ability, my goal of getting published one day. And it really freaked me out. All because I had a sucky two days where I couldn’t write one damn scene.
I didn’t want to get it wrong. I didn’t want to make a mistake when writing it, because I knew I could write better. Because I knew it wasn’t my usual standard. But we can’t be at 100% all the time. We shouldn’t even try.
It’s important to get things wrong. Not just in writing, but in life. How else are we supposed to learn?
Take all the writing advice you’ve ever gotten. When you were a beginner writer, just starting out, hands up how many of you followed every piece of advice you read?
I did. Because I didn’t know any better. Because I was an amateur with no skill, but lots of ideas. And I made so many mistakes writing my first novel. I read it from time to time and sometimes I think ‘this part is good,’ but mostly I go ‘why did I write like that?’
Because the first three pages are nothing but exposition, describing my world history and my city because I created them and wanted everyone to know about it.
I changed POV randomly, with no warning, following five different characters and two different story lines.
I info dumped constantly, because my readers needed to know everything right away.
There was no antagonist, not until right at the very end. The rest of the novel was four people walking to the moutains North of the country.
I haven’t revised this novel. I finished it and left it. Some bad, some good. But filled with my mistakes.
I’ve learned a lot since. I taught myself to plot my novels, and keep info dumps and exposition to a minimum and to maintain consistent POV (or at least tell the readers if and when it’s changing.) I’ve learned not to worry about how good or bad my writing might sound like, because I know how to revise and make it better.
Making mistakes and getting it wrong has helped me grow as a writer to the point where a writing binge doesn’t leave me with 1000 words of complete rubbish. It leaves me with a few sentences in need of revision and it’s fine.
Making mistakes allows more experienced writers to gently nudge me in the right direction, offering their help and opinions and critiques, and in turn, helps them.
Making mistakes teaches me how to deal with critisism, how to use advice to make my novels better, and how to help others who might be struggling where I once did.
So when I’m struggling to write, and nothing sounds good I’m going to remember that it’s okay to get it wrong. It’s not the end of the world. It doesn’t mean I’m not a good writer, it just means I’m not having a good day. And the mistakes I make can and will be fixed.
Because those mistakes are going to make me better.