Insecure Writers Support Group: "You're Going to Suck At It, and That's a Good Thing" #IWSG

I think one of the things new writers face is this expectation they'll sit down at the keyboard and produce a masterpiece. They don't give themselves permission to be crummy at writing, and so when their first efforts don't live up to their expectations, that they can't force the words into the shapes they want, they feel discouraged, like maybe they weren't cut out for this whole writing thing after all.

The Fine Art of Making It Look Easy

"But, Lissa," you protest, "Margaret Mitchell's first novel won the Pulitzer Prize!"

That's true. But she spent almost a decade as a columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution before she started writing it, and then spent another ten years working on the book before it was published. And her first columns weren't exactly earth-shattering in their journalistic brilliance.

The truth is, every writer starts out with crummy first efforts, just like no pianist has ever sat down at the piano for the first time and played a concerto. You learn to write like you learn to play the piano, by endlessly practicing scales and simple tunes, before working up to more complex pieces.

Are there incredibly gifted minds who produce masterpieces the first time they try? Yes. And I know everyone wants to believe they're one of them, but the truth is that almost everyone has to work hard to hone their skills before they become good at their work.

You're In Love With Your Own work, and That's Okay, Too

If you're like most writers, you're convinced your first book idea is awesome, a potential bestseller. Maybe it is. But it likely isn't. I know. I have a lot of old stories that - thankfully - will never see the light of day, but at the time, I thought they were brilliant, and I was immensely proud of my work.

And I should have been proud. But that doesn't change the fact they were pretty bad.

Every finished story is a victory, and something a writer should be proud of. Just like a kid practicing the piano should be proud they managed to get through Three Blind Mice without hitting a sour note. But it's just that - practice. I received encouragement from the few who read those first efforts and I kept going.

As writers, we need that passion. We need to fall in love with our stories and work at them with the dazed awe that whispers, "This could be the next Great American Novel."

But we also need that little voice that says, "It can be better."

Allow Yourself to Stink

Okay, so now you're half-way through your magnus opus and the doubts are starting to set in. You can't force the words out correctly. You go back and read your dialogue and it's stiff and unwieldy. You have adverbs everywhere. You can't figure out what you're doing wrong when someone says you're telling, not showing.

You're getting frustrated and want to scrap the whole thing, and forget this stupid idea you could ever be a writer.

That's when you need to stop and take a deep breath and realize it's okay to suck. You're still learning. You're learning with every single word you type.

That's what NaNoWriMo is supposed to be about, allowing yourself just to produce and not worry about perfection. Because the practice is the precious part, learning how to craft concise sentences, use adjectives effectively, and dance along the tips of words like the artist you are.

Being a happy writer is about loving every stage. And that means loving the part where you sort of suck, too. Because you know you're going to get better, and you'll be grateful for this time you spent working on your scales.

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You can see my other posts for the Insecure Writer's Support Group here, and visit the main blogroll here.


  1. Yep, my words are crummy, and no matter how many times I go over them, they'll never be as good as I might want. Hopefully, I'll have such a great story that the readers will forgive me my crude wording. Happy IWSG day!

    1. Don't say, "never." Look forward to the stage where they'll be better. Maybe none of us ever get to the stage where our writing is as good as we want it to be. That's okay, too: it makes us always strive to be better. A bad writer is someone who says, "I'm perfect the way I am." Be a writer who says, "I'm always trying to get better." And you will.

  2. I go through phases with my writing. One day it's brilliant, the next it's terrible. I guess that's what editing is for. I think for the most part I have good ideas, it's just about getting the words out in a way that will live up to those ideas.

    1. Some days, I want to scrap every single word I type. And some days, I wonder why I got into this whole mess in the first place. But then I remember, it's for those days where the words seem to write themselves, and I can't type fast enough to keep up with the burning stream in my mind.

      We have to hold onto that joy, even when we're not at our best. "We're all apprentices in a craft where none is ever a master," after all. We've just got to keep fighting for what we can be if we just work hard enough.

  3. I really like this post, very nice thwart when a new writer is feeling discouraged. Thank you ヅ ツ ッ

    1. More than anything, I want to encourage others. Sometimes, other writers are the only support we have, and we need to be there for one another, cheering each other on and uplifting our fellow writers through every step of the process.

  4. I agree. My first novel attempts were stinky. The concept good, the writing not so much. When I shoved them aside and started writing shorts, things started rolling... all that practice from start to finish is a good thing.

    1. We all need to remember it's a journey. You don't start out at your destination the moment you step outside your front door. The process is a long and windy road, and sometimes, it feels like you've been slogging uphill for miles. But you've just got to keep going, And cherish every step of the way.


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