If you’re ever going to be a good writer, then you probably tend to be afraid you’re a bad writer. Instead of trying to prove you’re good, try to prove you’re bad. At least the ball will start MOVING on the field. I always tell young writers, “start proving to yourself how bad you are.” Make a joke out of it. Write a draft that you know you’re going to throw in the garbage, or show to your friends for a laugh, a profanely irresponsible piece of shit draft that in which you absolutely fight for the team that you REALLY believe in – the one that says you stink. Pretend your Mom keeps asking you “why don’t you just finish something,” and write the thing designed to shut her the fuck up. THIS is why I don’t just do it, Mom, because it would look like THIS, this thing that SUCKS. Show her. Don’t even waste time on it, the faster you go, the more it will suck and the more you’ll win the fight against yourself.
Because the truth is, we do suck…because “we” is our ego, and our job is to get that ego to stop blocking us.
On the latest episode of Harmontown, which achieved a new level of spontaneity that danced gracelessly/amazingly between awful, awkward, and awesome, Dan Harmon answered a live tweet about writer’s block, offering something similar to the advice above (which he wrote about years ago). I have to admit, this approach has done wonders for me in my recent quest to produce YA Fiction. I believe I started the thing at some point in December, and I sprinted past 43,000 words yesterday (with a goal of 60,000 for a first draft). Fuller described this to me as the “madman” phase, and that’s a pretty accurate description of the maniacal state I get in as I unleash hell on the page. I’m pretty confident it’s mostly a pile of junk, so I’m doing a great job proving to myself how terrible I am at writing. But there’s also a lot of really good stuff sneaking in there, and each time I find these gems, I feel like Indiana Jones discovering a long lost artifact, like holy shit, that was there all along? This thing has to be preserved.
And so while I’m not quite in the state of self-loathing that Harmon advocates – because I know I can write effectively – I’m happy to write shit if it at least means that I’m writing (case-in-point, this post). The reason I hadn’t made the attempt to produce something substantial before was because I felt like I didn’t have anything to say. When I started my YA piece, I knew I didn’t have anything to say, but I went for it anyway. Now, in the process, I’m discovering that I do, in fact, have something to say. I don’t care if it sucks, I don’t care if I suck. This shit is getting made.