Friday, December 27, 2013

Practice What I Preach


Don't tell the 8,457 kids I spoke to this year, but I don't practice what I preach.

Here's what I preach:

Don't be afraid to write something that isn't very good.

I then go on to tell them:

You can always make it better.
But you can't fix what you haven't written.

I actually stole that first line from singer/songwriter Paul Simon. I watched a documentary once that showed him teaching a class on songwriting. He told the students: "Don't be afraid to write something that isn't very good."

That has stayed with me ever since.

But the truth of the matter is that I HATE writing something that isn't very good.

It really, really, really bothers me.

In fact, it often paralyzes me. 

Stops me right in my tracks. 

Prevents me from moving forward. 

I have struggled with this miserable phenomenon for a long time.

25 years and 16 books, to be exact.

I like for my writing to be neat and tidy and as nearly perfect as it can be while I'm working on the first draft. I go over and over and over the same sentences, paragraphs, pages without moving forward. But then I get stuck and stay there, spinning my wheels. This can be a bad, bad thing.

Critique partners often tell me to "just move forward" and "you can fix it later." I know that. I really do. But it's still hard to do.

I just don't like those s***ty first drafts that Anne Lamott talks about in her brilliant book on writing, Bird by Bird

But then recently Avi wrote a short blog post that for some reason hammered the concept into my pea brain and made an impact. 

I'm going to read that post a few hundred more times and head on back into my office to work on that s***ty first draft.

Practicing what I preach.

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