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Bad writing, the price of good writing

Here, curated by the wonderful folk over at Brain Pickings, is  a great collection of great writers' advice on writing: https://www.brainpickings.org/2013/05/03/advice-on-writing/. Many of these are aimed at novelists, those hewing out great literary works, but there's plenty here for people just trying to put one word after another to get their message across too. 

The first is the one that really sold it to me: 

“You can only write regularly if you’re willing to write badly… Accept bad writing as a way of priming the pump, a warm-up exercise that allows you to write well.” - Jennifer Egan

I find that incredibly heartening. It's like going for a run, the first few minutes always seem hard and ungainly somehow, but then within 5 or 10 minutes it all comes together, the breathing becomes more regular, the muscles and joints warm up and remember how to move together, the rhythm and the endorphins kick in together. And now that I run every day, that fluidity comes more easily and more quickly. But the price of the joyful, easy miles is always those first few hundred clumsy yards, and every time I have a stab of doubt that this time it won't come good.

In the end, it always does, eventually. 

This entry was posted on 17 April 2017 at 22:11 and is filed under writing. You can leave a response here.

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5 responses to 'Bad writing, the price of good writing'

Sarah Arrow says

I have this funnily enough with the blogging challenge participants. They think writing a blog post once a fortnight means they're writing quality content. Hell no. You get better at writing by writing. You don't improve it by imagining you're writing well... For a lot of writers, that's a mindset shift too many. They'd rather carry on writing as little as possible without the results and blame everyone but themselves.

Added on 17 April 2017 at 21:48

Nicci Fletcher says

Great advice. Here are my thoughts .... With writing you have to have the same healthy relationship with failure as you do with any other aspect of your life. Unfortunately most of us have an unhealthy relationship with failure often due to the lessons that society teaches us. So you have to be proactive in changing your mindset. One of the first steps is to be willing to learn from the bad experiences because then the poor writing has done its job. Whilst you learn from producing both good and bad writing you actually learn far more by being proactive in learning from the bad stuff.

Added on 19 April 2017 at 05:46

Alison Jones says

Thanks for these thoughtful messages, Sarah and Nicci. Sarah, I couldn't agree more: less is NOT more when it comes to blogging! And that's a good point re reflection Nicci: I think what I'm saying here is slightly different, that you only find yourself in flow writing your best stuff after you've got started by accepting the pedestrian, clunky stuff that comes out when you first sit down to write. But that's a great challenge to me: I'm not nearly proactive enough in looking back over the stuff I discard and learning the lessons from it before I hit 'delete'. Thank you!

Added on 19 April 2017 at 06:16

Sherry Bevan says

I was just thinking, that's exactly what Sarah Arrow says in her blogging challenge ... and then I see in the comments, the first person to comment is Sarah Arrow! I get your running analogy ... the first few miles of any long training run "I'm not going to be able to do this" and then it just starts to flow. The same, for me, with words.

Added on 20 April 2017 at 14:35

Susann, the Biveros Effect says

This really is a comforting thought - I don't know how many times I have been staring at an empty screen (or an empty piece of paper), thinking that it's impossible to start. It's not impossible to start, it's jus difficult to be open to failure.

Added on 21 April 2017 at 10:44

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