Writing Advice from Maureen Johnson

Via writingadvice:

“Let me let you in on a little secret. When you are learning to write, you are going to suck. You are going to suck a lot. You’re just going to keep sucking for a while, and feel like you’re sucking, and actually that’s a sign that you’re completely on the right path. (…)

You know, you don’t have to be afraid that the first thing you turn out is going to be a huge masterpiece, or it’s going to be that big novel that makes a billion zillion dollars. Don’t worry about that. Don’t worry that it’s not good. Nobody- that’s the great thing about writing and not publishing right away — you can write tons of stuff that sucks.

This is precisely why when people write to me when you’re, you know, sixteen, seventeen and eighteen and you say, “I’ve written a book. I write stories all the time. I wanna publish them. How can I do that.” I say, “No, don’t do it, not yet, stop. Because you haven’t sucked enough yet.” And you may be thinking, “No, I do, I really really suck. You’re underestimating how much I suck, Maureen.” But I’m not. You haven’t sucked loooooong and hard enough. (Did I actually say that?) 

Trust me, sucking is not just part of the learning process. It’s part of the professional process as well. First drafts, like the one I turned in at one o’clock this morning, basically exist to suck. They’re wrong. They’re the first pass. They’re my first attempt at the story. And they’re going to get changed and ripped apart. I mean, lots of writers I know, we sit and we laugh about the incredible sucktitude of our first drafts. But you have to go there and you have to try stuff out and you have to suck at it big time.

Have you heard this phrase, “Writing is rewriting?” Well it’s a hundred percent true. You don’t just write something once and then you’re done. You write it and it sucks. Then you write it and write it like five, ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five, forty, forty-five, whatever times, and *then* you’re done and it goes from ‘suck’ to ‘sort-of-kind-of-suck’ and then it kind of goes all the way to ‘awesome,’ and that’s the journey. It goes from ‘suck’ to ‘awesome.’ (…)

It’s good to say it out loud. Say it with me now. It feels good. One, two, three, “I give myself permission to suck.” - Maureen Johnson

(Thanks to em-pathy!)

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