Allowing Myself to Suck

As I begin with Ch. 6, I realize that each time I start a new chapter I have to inevitably chose between two options:

1. Not write the chapter.

OR

2.  Allow myself to suck.

Obviously not writing the chapter is not really an option, its more of a delaying tactic. I postpone writing for several minutes, then several hours. If I’m really feeling the fear, I’ll let days go by until I end up choosing the only choice I really have, which is choice number 2: I have to allow myself to suck.

I bite my lip, squint my right eye, and tense up my back as I allow the crap to flow. Oh yes, it’s all crap. It’s going to be crap for a while. But not for long, don’t worry. Towards the end of the draft it gets better, I get happy with it, and then, only then, can I move on. I feel smug about myself and my ability to turn out a decent first draft of a chapter. But then comes the next chapter, and here we go again.

Delay, delay, delay. Then, face it. Bite my lip, squint my right eye, and tense up my back as I let the crap flow once again. It’s all blood and guts. I’d imagine it’s what God had to work with when he was creating Adam. A random liver here, a rib cage left unassembled, a spleen missing, and no skin to cover the ugliness. Just half a bone here, half a bone there, some muscle and blood, a couple of veins and an artery. Organs piled out-of-order. Nothing quite functions how it should be yet, and I’m still not sure what’s going to go where.

Oh, boy is it ugly.

But here’s the thing that separates the writer from the rest. Look back at the two choices up there. You know, number one and number two? Can you see that if you are not okay with allowing yourself to suck, you will never sit down and finish writing anything? For a writer, number 1 is a delaying tactic. For a non-writer, number 1 is an actual choice.

“I get, I get it. You have to take risks. You got to be willing to fail, moral of the story, blah blah blah. Heard it before. Nothing new. Blah.”

No. I’m not talking about taking risks, or even allowing yourself to fail. Those are all one-shot sort of things. As in risks and failures happen in relatively short-time spans. You take a risk, you come out stronger or not, and then its over. You fail, you learn from it or you don’t, then it’s over. Doesn’t take very long for the result of a risk to become evident, or for a failure to become clear.

No, what I am talking about is the need to have a prolonged familiarity with your suckage and a willingness to sit and hang around, on a day-to-day basis, with your (yes YOUR, not somebody else’s) bad bad writing. It’s like you’re the Duchess of York, and your forced to sit in a room alone and watch that video of you drunk in the middle of a sting operation over and over and over again. The very worst of yourself plastered on the screen, unable to escape the cringe-inducing, humiliating, sadness of it.

Woah. Ok. That was too dramatic. But for some reason I wanted to use a Duchess of York analogy. (Did you see that interview? Even Oprah was like:  “You needed money for a ‘friend.’ Girl, you have got to be kidding me!?”)

Anyways. Where was I?

Oh yah. Writing means that you have to allow yourself to suck about 90 % of the time so that the little 10% at the end can be brilliant. No, the actual sucking is not the hard part. It’s allowing yourself to suck that’s the hard part. You don’t want to be bad. You don’t want to think that at any point of the process you are bad, or that any other writer is ever bad.

But the truth is all writers suck. They suck 90% of the time. What you get at your local bookstore is that last 10% that turned out brilliant.

So, I hope this encourages writers out there who are too afraid to start because they think they might suck, that in a lot of ways it’s their job to suck. Trust me. You do suck. You will suck. You will always suck. At the beginning. But not near the end. And you have great company, because all writer’s suck at first. The thing that makes us writers (and the thing that will make you a writer) is that we allow ourselves to suck long enough for us to become awesome.

Practice does make perfect, but it’s the ability to allow yourself to look bad while you practice that will keep you going until you reach the top. You must wade through The Lake of Suckage before you can reach The Promised Land of Near Perfection.

Ok now. Back to churning out more crap.

much suckage,

Ollin

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21 comments on “Allowing Myself to Suck

  1. Lua says:

    Haha Ollin I love this!!! It was hilarious- and so TRUE! We suck!🙂
    My first draft- it’s crap… but like you said, “No, the actual sucking is not the hard part. It’s allowing yourself to suck that’s the hard part.” Seeing how bad my writing is, facing those ugly words is the hard part. Once you accept it (on a daily bases) then you see how you can improve and work until it is readable without blinding the human eye…

    • Exactly, you need to accept the suckage, and once you do it becomes much more easier to see how you can improve and revise you work. That’s what it’s all about, most people cant get past how bad they’re writing is, but once they get passed THAT then it gets easier. You just gotta make it bettter.

  2. Anonymous says:

    haha LOVE this!

    “What I am talking about is the need to have a prolonged familiarity with your suckage”

    • yeah, it’s easy to fail once and deal, or to take a risk and then deal. But to be able to stay with your suckage for long periods of time, that’s a real challenge. I’m glad you liked it!🙂

  3. unabridgedgirl says:

    “I’ll late days”

    I just thought you might want to know about your typo. I think you mean, “I’ll let days…” (Sorry, I just know I cringe when I realize, days later, that I have a typo on my post!)

    I love the 90% suck time! It’s true, true, true!

    Thanks for the encouragement.🙂

  4. “No, what I am talking about is the need to have a prolonged familiarity with your suckage.”
    So true! If you don’t accept that you can’t pound out a Pulitzer in the first draft you’re never going to get anywhere. Embrace that suckage! … then make it better🙂

  5. […] As I begin with Ch. 6, I realize that each time I start a new chapter I have to inevitably chose between two options: 1. Not write the chapter. OR 2.  Allow myself to suck. Obviously not writing the chapter is not really an option, its more of a delaying tactic. I postpone writing for several minutes, then several hours. If I'm really feeling the fear, I'll let days go by until I end up choosing the only choice I really have, which is choice numb … Read More […]

  6. T.S. Bazelli says:

    I was just feeling rather sick of my writing today. Thank you for posting this! I never looked at it that way – to write or not! Hmm! I hope that I can fix this mess eventually, but in the meantime… yeah it sucks plenty.

    • I’m glad it makes you feel better. Remember, right now your biggest challenge is allowing yourself to suck. Once you pass that, then the true writing begins. And then eventually, your mess will be brilliant I am sure of it!🙂

  7. junebugger says:

    Everything is “Crap” (as you so eloquently put it, teehee) on draft one, be it a book…or even a painting. I’m also an oil-painter so I can say with full authority that starting off a new painting by drafting out the picture looks like the crapiest of crap. Well, mind does. And then, after time and patience, applying paint and reapplying the paint, you end up with non-crap. I agree with you that we just need to WRITE. If we’re going to try and perfect everything on try#1…by the time the writer moves on, the inspiration will be gone!!!!!!

    • That’s write. Allowing yourself to suck applies to any and all artistic endeavors. That’s the only way you can become good at any art. And you are also correct in saying that if you do end up choosing number one, and just delay the writing, by that time your inspiration might be gone. I’ve done that before, and boy does it suck. Regret isn’t fun. I’ve learned long ago to go with inspiration and suck that thing dry, because sometimes its hard to come by.

      Thanks for wonderfully elaborating my point, June H.!🙂

  8. krisceratops says:

    Ahh yes, the suck.

    As often as I hear this advice, I never seem to be able to actually churn out crap. I’ve written the first chapter of my novel probably over 30 times since its conception, and each time I’ve deleted it and spent several weeks or months pouting. I know I have to suck. Someday, I have to just go “Okay, good enough, time to move on!”, but I just haven’t been able to let myself suck.

    Thanks for such an inspirational post! I can suck, I know I can!

    • You are right krisceratops. Allowing yourself to suck isn’t easy. You should know that it took me two years, a couple of random traumatic events, and some unexpected spiritual/artistic mentors that allowed me to finally (only four months ago) start to allow myself to suck long enough to keep writing consistently, on a weekly basis. It’s still hard. It’s good to have a great family and a great group of friends to give you some much needed encouragement. Oh, and a strategically placed red velvet to bait you into finishing that first draft of your first chapter is not so bad either.🙂

  9. […] First Drafts? June 5, 2010 by krisceratops After reading this lovely post on being able to write a terrible first draft of something, I tried searching the web for a blog or […]

  10. […] Allowing myself to suck. I have completely abandoned all standards of quality, and have thus given myself the freedom to […]

  11. […] guilty for having such a fun time with my novel lately? I mean it’s okay, right? Just like I allow myself to suck, shouldn’t I also allow myself to have fun, too? Or allow myself to shine? I’ve spent a […]

  12. […] Make Your Goal to Write The Worst Novel/Poem/Article Ever Written: Beginning writers often want the first line they ever write to sound like Shakepseare. When it doesn’t, these beginning writers will stop right away and wait months before they attempt writing again. Having unrealistic expectations for your writing is what prevents many writers from writing. Please don’t to that yourself! Do not demand that you be Ralph Ellison after one day. It’s not gonna happen. Instead, make your goal to write the worst novel ever written. That’s right, make your goal to suck horribly. You will always succeed in that, and when, by chance, you do write something brilliant, well then, your failure is also success! The idea is that you need to become very comfortable with how much you will suck at first. I discuss in further detail how lowering your expectations for your writing allows you to get more work done in: “Allowing Myself to Suck“ […]

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