Advice and the Irony of Suck
It’s a funny thing about advice. When you hear the same thing over and over, you tend to close your ears to it, and wave it off with, “Yes, yes, I know.”
I’d been struggling with The Next One. Oh, I was getting my words, and I knew my direction. The problem was that whenever I faced the keyboard, I was filled with dread that this would be the book that showed all my other writing up as a fluke. This would be the book that revealed that, while I was a very lucky monkey who had hit the right keys in the right order before, it didn’t guarantee another repeat performance. It sounds silly, but it showed. The more anxious I got, the more stilted my writing became. The more stilted my writing sounded, the more I fussed.
Naturally, the only way to break that cycle is by writing more.
So that’s what I’ve been doing. I’m at the point where it feels weird and wrong if I miss a day, which reassures me.
But the other funny thing about advice? Sometimes all it takes is hearing it one more time to break through that wall of dismissal.
I was listening to I Should Be Writing a few days ago. As it’s one of the first podcasts I listened to, and the first I stuck with, I am well acquainted with Mur’s Second Law: “You are allowed to suck.”
“Yes, yes, I know.”
Then, on this episode (I think was the May 9th feedback episode, but I’m not sure), she said it one more time, and it really, truly hit home.
I’m allowed to suck.
Really, it’s okay. I shouldn’t be submitting things that suck, but I would never submit an unedited first draft anyway. This is the first draft. Continuity problems, awkward sentences, and crutch words can all be fixed in the second… but they can’t be fixed if I don’t write them in the first place.
After giving myself permission to suck, I noticed something.
Writing felt better. With paranoia banished for the time being, the words flowed more easily, and a lot more naturally. Characters asserted themselves more, and spoke in voices that rang more true. In the great irony of suck, once I stopped fighting it, I started sucking less.
This thing is still going to need a LOT of rewriting before it’s seen by another human’s eyes. That’s okay. That’s what the editing period is for. For the first draft?
I’m allowing myself to suck.