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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.

Want to Be a Good Writer?

Expecting Perfection Is a One-Way Ticket to Resistance City

Expecting Perfection Is a One-Way Ticket to Resistance City

By Rosanne Bane

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.

You Gotta Be Willing to Be Bad!

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.

The Dreck Draft

Willingness to Write Dreck = Willingness to Write at All

Willingness to Write Dreck = Willingness to Write at All

I call it writing the Dreck Draft. In my 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.

No Good at Being Bad

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 “Want to Be a Good Writer?”

  1. Larry September 8, 2009 at 8:29 pm #

    A great piece of advice, not often said, and especially well-stated here. This is the kind of tip that writers hear and then quickly dismiss because it’s counter-intuitive. But it really works. Not only to get un-blocked, but to get started when nothing seems ready yet. What you write may not be as bad as you think it will be, or more likely, you’ll hit on what you need to be doing as a result of writing what you already know isn’t right.

    The blank page sucks the energy from your intentions. Beat it by filling that page with… well, almost anything.

    This issue is actually Tip #34 in my writing tips ebook.

    Thanks for another great little morsal of writing wisdom, Rosanne.



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