On Producing Terrible Writing

One piece of writing advice I’ve seen over and over again is “Just write! Don’t worry about it being good!” It might be the most common bit of writing advice of which I know. Just write! Just write, just write, just write!

But what if everything you write just plain old sucks?

For sure, perfectionism is the death of writing. If you are too worried about making a mistake and producing something crappy, you’ll never put words on a page. And if somehow you manage to write something under the burden of perfectionsim, it will probably be clunky and stilted. Why is it that when you care so much about making something good, it ends up so awful?

The reason is that perfectionism kills fluidity. In my opinion, the best writing flows like water in a clear stream. It has enough rocks and fish and algae and other such things to keep it interesting, but overall it is unobstructed. There are no dams to block it up. It is fluid, and free.

That doesn’t mean that the writing process necessarily flows smoothly, even if you kill your inner editor. It certainly doesn’t mean that your first, unedited drafts will be any good. I am definitely the victim of myself, in terms of both being a constant editor and a critic.

But good writing is really an outpouring of emotion and thought that has been edited after the fact. It has to out, no matter if it is bad or good or if it hurts as it comes. You have to produce something. It may suck (even most of it may suck) but you will find something good in all the terrible mess. It may be that you find the diamond in the rough poem or story. It may be that you learn something new about yourself. You may find hidden depths to both yourself and your ideas.

That is why producing something, even if it is terrible writing, is good. You might not use it in a final product, but you learn every time you put pen to paper or finger to keyboard. You learn – and you improve. You make mistakes or write awful screeds, and you learn from that too, and you improve again.

What do you think of “Just write!” as writing advice? Do you struggle with editing as you write? I sure do.



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