What to Do When Writing Sucks

Let’s face it… All writers eventually hit a point where writing just isn’t fun anymore.  Even if it only lasts a few minutes (lucky you!), every writer has had a moment (or two? three? fifteen-hundred?) where they just simply didn’t want to write.  That moment when writing sucks and we wonder why we ever decided to do this in the first place.

There are several reasons we might reach this point:

  1. Because we think our writing itself sucks and no one will like it.
  2. Because we’re stuck on something and don’t know what we’re doing.
  3. Because writing is hard and we are tired of our brains hurting.
  4. Because it takes so much time and effort and sacrifice and we’re exhausted.
  5. Because it has lost its excitement and we just don’t love it anymore.

I hit all of these at different times, and not just once… over and over and over again I experience these.  And yet I keep writing.  WHY?

The truth is I did quit for a while.  For a few years, actually. But the reason I came back to it was simple…

Something inside me wouldn’t shut up about it.

Seriously, that’s it.  There was just always this little nagging voice in the back of my head (for years way, wayyyy back) that knew I could be writing and wasn’t.  A little voice that piped up in an embarrassing twinge of jealousy whenever a friend published something or got a story accepted to a literary journal or hit success with her new book.  A little voice that said, “Why did you bury this?” and that refused to believe any of my excuses.

Oh, it quieted for a while.  For a while, life really was too busy for writing.  Marriage, babies, new jobs, you name it.   But the voice… it never went away.

I had a talent I wasn’t using, and that bugged me.  Deeply.   I got back into all kinds of things around writing, including editing and teaching writing classes,  and eventually that little voice became a slow burn inside me telling me to write.  It took a while, but I listened.

And here is what I learned:

All the reasons writing sucks are also the reasons it’s wonderful.

Yes, there’s a chance no one will like it.  Yes, it’s hard and confusing and time-consuming and draining.  Yes, it takes practice and effort and you still risk failure and ridicule, even after all your work.

Unless…

Unless your measure of success is bigger than any one story.  Unless “success” becomes something bigger than all your stories combined and yet beautifully simple.

This is when things transformed for me:  I started viewing my goal as a writer as simply to become constantly better at writing.

I know it seems circular, but it does something magical:  it gives you the freedom to fail.

So what if that story isn’t popular?  You learned from it.

So what if you weren’t able to pull off the character development like you wanted to?  You learned from it.

So what if it takes you ten years to write a book that you thought you’d finish in 6 months?  You learned from it.

You are better for it.  Your writing is better for it.  None of it is wasted.

No matter where you are in your writing career or in your skill level, this applies.

As Bob Ross says,

Did you get that?  It’s not about innate talent.  It’s not “some are born with it” or “I just don’t have it.”  It’s about interest, commitment, the pursuit of something.  Sure, some writers start off ahead of the game with natural aptitude, but even that doesn’t ever become talent unless it’s wielded.  Then it becomes a honed skill set.  A talent.

No matter how much experience or success you have as a writer, sometimes, writing will suck.  But that’s okay.  That’s normal.  The question is, are you learning from it?

Here’s another truth: all those reasons I listed above for why writing sucks have one thing in common.  Did you catch it?

It’s FEAR.

Fear of failure.  Fear of rejection.  Fear of the unknown.

Do yourself a favor and just make it okay to fail.  Fail big.  Fail hard.  Fail publicly and beautifully and fail better than you’ve ever failed before.  Aim high and make that failure spectacular.

Sure, you may get embarrassed, but then you’ll remember:  failure was your goal.  It was the whole point!  Because every time you fail, you get a little bit better.   If you don’t believe me, then believe Thomas Edison:

The key is just to never give up.

The only way to truly fail is to stop now, when writing sucks.  Because trust me, if you push through it, it gets better.

Of course, then it sucks again.  But only until it’s better again, and then you realize you’ve leveled up to a new plane of awareness, with new challenges and new achievements. The pain is temporary, but the growth stays with you.

Writing is hard.  Really, really hard.   This is why only those people with that fire inside really stick with it.   If you have that fire, don’t bury it.  Be one of those people.  Fail hard, keep learning, keep writing, and never give up.

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