I did some writing yesterday and it’s genuinely some of the worst writing I’ve ever done in my life.
Let me back up a bit. I spent part of the day working on a story I’ve been writing for awhile. I ended up adding about 10,000 words, not a lot but enough to fill in some essential scenes and details that had been missing previously. But when I went back and read it all again I was pretty disappointed by how terrible it was. I mean, really bad. So bad it doesn’t even fit in with the rest of the story.
I’m not going to lie, it was extremely frustrating and disheartening. I considered giving up. Scrapping the whole story.
But (after pouting for a considerable length of time) I eventually came to my senses and reminded myself: This is just a first draft, and that the whole point of a first draft is just to write it. I can make it better later. Things don’t have to be perfect right away, they can be revised and improved.
I think that can often be one of the things that keeps people from trying something: Fear that they won’t be good at it. And the truth is, sometimes you won’t. But each time you try you’ll probably get better…and then sometimes you’ll be terrible again. It happens. It’s part of the process.
I’m trying to soothe my wounded ego by telling myself that the fact that the new content is so out of place with everything I wrote before, might actually mean that some of the other stuff I wrote is pretty decent.
Personally, for me, I kind of like these “I suck!” moments. Not at the time of course. But when it comes to the big picture, I think being critical of my own work is a good quality to have. I would never want to be the kind of person who isn’t open to improving, or who thinks everything they do is already perfect on the very first try. I appreciate that part of my brain that’s constantly thinking, “OK now how can I make this better?”
This can also hold me back, however. I’ll likely never be the type of writer who publishes much of anything other than blog posts simply because I’ll never feel like anything is truly finished. Even with so-called “finished” projects that I think are pretty good, I still re-read them and think, “But are they good enough?”
This is a great time to mention that outside perspectives can be incredibly beneficial with this exact issue, depending on what you intend to do with your work. Beta readers, proofreaders, editors, etc, there are so many options for who you can show your work to in order to get feedback. You can even have a partner, friend, or family member do it for you, but be aware they may be less willing to provide the type of critical feedback required for growth and improvement, not because they don’t want to help you but because they may be biased due to your relationship and unable to view your work as critically as a stranger or a professional might. Of course, if you only write for yourself and have no intention of sharing or publishing any of your work, you don’t have to show anyone at all. It’s entirely up to you.
While writing this blog post, I came across an older article (from 2016) on Medium by Jeff Goins that really resonated with me and with this particular topic: This is Why You’re Never Satisfied with Your Writing. He brings up a lot of excellent points that I found very insightful and thought-provoking. I definitely recommend heading over there to read what he has to say.
I’ll go back and fix up some of my terrible writing later. Maybe I’ll write several thousand more terrible words first. Maybe the next thing I write will be the best work I’ve ever done, or maybe it will be so bad I’ll look back at this moment when I thought my writing was bad and just shake my head in shame and disappointment. Who knows how it’ll go?
But I’ll keep trying, and I think that’s the most important part.