Be Awful at Stuff

Roughly half of the reviews for my new book The Marian have included what I would say is one of the biggest compliments you can pay an author – they’re asking about the status of the next book.

I say “roughly half” because “two of four” doesn’t sound nearly as impressive.

Anyway, to answer the clamoring horde of two people who asked and stroked my ego, I am indeed working on the sequel to The Marian, and I’m having the time of my life. The story is going to go some really cool places in this one, but what’s even more fun is that I’m in the rough draft phase.

In my opinion, this is the best part of working on a book.

Doing the original outlining and plotting always feels really precarious to me, like I’m setting up a house of cards and if I breathe just wrong, it’s all going to fall apart. Editing forces me to come back to all the hilarious jokes and epic action scenes I wrote and realize that they weren’t quite as brilliant as I thought they were. Plus, there’s that little voice in my head that’s constantly saying, “Is it ready now? How about now? When is it going to be done? People NEED to read this!”

But the rough draft is different. It’s my playground. I get to do whatever the heck I want, because if I come back and figure out something I tried was awful, I can hit delete and nobody’s the wiser.

The point isn’t to write something great.

The point is to write something.

It doesn’t matter if what you end up with is boring, or if it veers away from the main thrust of the story, or even if it makes absolutely no sense. Your goal is to write a story, no matter what the quality, so you can have something to edit. That’s incredibly freeing. It’s also incredibly fun, because it means you have complete creative freedom.

It took me a little while to get back into “rough draft mode” for this one. I was putting the final touches on The Marian when I started writing its sequel, and that last phase of editing is a completely different mindset from what you need when you’re sitting down in front of a blank page. When you’re editing, you need to take every doubt seriously. If something doesn’t feel right, you need to figure out why and fix it.

That attitude works great for editing, but if you take it to a blank page, chances are you’re not going to get much written. However, if you can break through all that self-doubt and give yourself permission to write something truly awful, the rough draft becomes a lot of fun. The pressure’s off. Just have fun, riff a little, and you can start worrying about making sense of everything after the story ends.

Honestly, that advice doesn’t work too bad for life, either.

I think too many people avoid trying new things because they’re afraid they won’t be good at them. It’s a ridiculous reason not to do something because of course you’re not going to be good at doing something you’ve never done before. Nobody picks up a new hobby and instantly becomes an expert.

Give yourself permission to be awful. You just might have some fun and eventually become not-awful. Lofty aspirations, I know.

Anyway, that’s as far as I’m going to stretch that metaphor. The point is, I’m writing new stuff, I’m having a blast, and you should go be awful at something.

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2 thoughts on “Be Awful at Stuff

  1. This should certainly be an encouragement and challenge to anyone thinking of trying something new. Happy that you are having fun!

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