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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

If You Want to Write Well, You Have to Be Willing to Write Badly

Free Yourself of the Demand for Perfection!

Free Yourself of the Demand for Perfection!

A prime source of writing resistance is the desire to write good stuff. And the demand to produce perfect writing is a guaranteed, one-way trip to Resistance City. So how we do write good stuff, if just wanting it means we’ll trigger our resistance?

We sidle up to it. We surrender the desire for any particular outcome and become willing to write badly.

To write well, first you have to write at all. And to write at all, you have to be willing to write badly because, on any given day, you have no way of knowing whether what you’ll produce that day will be the brilliant prose or luminous poetry you hope for or complete and utter dreck. If you’re not willing to risk writing dreck, you won’t write at all.

Writing badly is what Anne Lamont calls the Sh*tty First Draft or what Marla Beck calls the Swiss Cheese Draft.

I call it writing the Dreck Draft. In the Writing Our Way Through the Shadow class, I challenge my students – and now I challenge you – to write something truly awful, clichéd, hackneyed, awkward, stupid, incomplete, unbelievable, sappy, sentimental, boring, grandiose, or any other adjective you would hate to have ascribed to your writing. 

You’ll be amazed at how freeing it is to not only give yourself permission to write badly, but to intentionally write the worst stuff you can think of. And you may be surprised at how difficult it is to keep writing badly, which the point of the exercise: writing anything, even writing badly, loosens you up and gets you into your writing rhythm. Before you know it, you’re writing and then if you’re not careful, you may just start writing well.

If you’re getting worried that writing a Dreck Draft will disintegrate your skills, that if you keep trying to write badly, you’ll get good at being bad, that’s just your resistance talking. The ultimate goal is not to write badly, it’s to be willing to write badly. The Dreck Draft is just an exercise in developing your willingness. You really can’t keep writing below your own skill and talent level for long.

I’m not at all disappointed or surprised when my students say something like “Well, I started the Dreck Draft assignment, but I couldn’t do it. I wrote a page or so of dreck, but it kept getting good, so I gave up on the assignment and just wrote.” BINGO!

So go forth and write dreck! Please send samples of your dreck and I’ll post the Best of the Worst here.

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4 Comments on “If You Want to Write Well, You Have to Be Willing to Write Badly”

  1. Caren Stelson June 21, 2009 at 2:16 am #


    I’ve taken your writing resistance class at the Loft and know have you at my fingertips in blog form. I look forward to each blog segment, a little dose of Roseanne to help me through the resistance of the moment. I hear your voice in each segment, smile, and know that I’m not alone in this mind game of resistance, and knowing that is another tool to breaking down the wall and start writing.

    Keep it coming!

    Caren Stelson


    • rosannebane June 21, 2009 at 3:48 am #

      Thanks for the encouragement, Caren! It’s good to know you look forward to the blog and that it’s helping to keep you writing. You keep it coming, too!



  1. If You Want to Write Well, You Have to Be Willing to Write Badly | Writers' Block - July 30, 2010

    […] version of this post originally appeared on Rosanne Bane’s blog The Bane of Your Resistance. It appears here with her permission. Rosanne Bane will be teaching The Writing Habit and Entering […]


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