The Courage to Write Badly

By: Thomas Belskie
August 2, 2017

Have you ever googled “how to write?” It’s OK, I have. I’ve done it more than once. After you lose that initial enthusiasm that propels you forward on a new project, it can be very difficult to force yourself to keep going. You get stuck. You abandon the project. You do things like google “writer’s block,” or “writing advice.” You do anything and everything besides actually writing.

Now that I’m a slightly older writer, I am at least able to recognize the points at which this phenomenon is occurring. I still suck at pushing through it, but at least now I can see it coming.

It reminds me of when I played soccer in high school. During conditioning we were required to run miles upon miles upon miles, or so it seemed and I was always one of the slowest times. I was quick in short bursts, but I didn’t seem to have the stamina. The truth is, I did have the stamina. I was just immature. I gave up too easily and I didn’t push myself.

Today, I am undoubtedly in worse shape and have less energy than my 17 year old self. But I can run those miles in a faster time than I could back then. The reason is because I’m able to recognize that point where I need to keep pushing. I know that there’s always more left in the tank even when it feels like there isn’t.

Sure, now I have less time than I did when I was younger, but I’m getting more done on a daily basis because I know the only way to keep producing and to finish projects is to push through that wall.

That wall is the fear of writing badly. Writing badly means your not a good writer. It means you’ll never make it. It means your a failure. It means your family and friends will laugh at you. The people who told you that you couldn’t make it will smugly tell you that they told you so. Right?

Wrong. That’s not what will happen. Not even close. There’s probably dozens or maybe even hundreds of quotes attributed to Ernest Hemingway and other famous writers about how terrible first drafts always are, the importance of rewriting and editing your work over and over again, and the amount of shitty writing that is almost a prerequisite to ever producing anything of any merit.

Every writer must have the courage to press on, the courage to write badly. Its the only way to finish anything. Its the only way to get anywhere. No one sits at a keyboard and just writes a perfect novel or screenplay or any kind of creative story. It doesn’t happen. Some people do it quicker than others, but its a struggle for everyone. Reminding myself of that every now and again provides a great deal of comfort.

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