Why It’s OK To Be An Awful Writer

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With my recent move to Central Florida, my routine has changed. I’ve found it difficult to keep up with my writing schedule now that I’m here, and it has meant that I’ve had to refine my habits.

That’s why I found comfort in this article from Mathew Henderson titled “It’s Ok To Be An Awful Writer.” In the article, Henderson gives some excellent advice for all writers worried about their craft:

It’s okay to be an awful writer. In fact, I suspect most great writers are also terrible writers. It all depends what you show people.

I think this is the key to beating the empty screen. Because it’s the pressure that kills, right? The urge to write the next great novel, or make a boatload of money with scandalous, (un)literary smut, or prove what a deep, deep thinker you are with stark poems about the common man. The pressure is too consistent, too constant, to ever get anything done.

So, yield to mediocrity, accept that the next word you write is likely going to be the wrong word and keep going anyway. The real worst case scenario isn’t that you might write something bad–you have a recycling bin (real and virtual) that can and should overflow with bad writing. The worst case scenario is that you might write nothing at all.

He goes on to give advice on how he avoids the pitfalls of writer’s block:

1. Each and every time I go to write, I have to remind myself that it’s okay to fail. It doesn’t stick with you. The pressure doesn’t go away. I sit down, and I want each word to be the next word of the best thing I’ve ever written.

2. Some people write very slowly, word by word, editing as they go. They are rare and beautiful creatures. You’re probably not a rare and beautiful creature. You’re probably like me.

Getting Things DoneMy personal approach to writing is similar to his: I believe in freewriting and scheduled writing times every day, usually in the morning. I come up with my best ideas this way. I do a lot of my early drafting and brainstorm on paper instead of the computer to avoid the blinking cursor. I also try to take notes throughout the day when I think of an idea; my smartphone and notebooks are full of random notes.

The key is to stop worrying about being awful and just write. It ends up better than you think.

Our contributing editor Jason Braun writes a poem-a-day to keep his writing alive. Other writers devote to a set number of words or pages every day. I devote at least a half hour to writing something, although I often devote more.

Writers: what do you do to keep up with your writing? How do you avoid writer’s block, and how do you meet your goals? Feel free to let us know in the comments!

Kevin Eagan (@KevEagan) is a freelance editor and writer living in Central Florida. He edits book manuscripts and articles for local and national publications. Critical Margins is his place to share his interests. You can also check out his professional website, KevinThomasEagan.com.