The Importance of Sucking

Image-1-4I’m writing this from a cafe near my house instead of from the comfortably window-adjacent table at my house. I had to get out to be able to concentrate.

You see, I live with 2 other people: my darling irowboat and an equally darling professional musician named Kevin. Kevin plays just about anything with stings, specializing in the upright and electric base.

Today is his day to practice. I have tactfully left the house.

We writers can be so precious – we think that we can get away without practice, that we are somehow separated from other kinds of art where things need to be done and re-done over and over until the skill is established. Art exhibits of the masters show rooms full of hand studies or face studies, all practiced over and over before the same hand or face is finally integrated into a masterpiece.

Or the musician who plays (badly at first) the same three bars for weeks over and over until his roommates are driven to work in coffee shops, until finally the same three bars are perfection in performance.

The basic process of art is to suck at it: unashamedly, unabashedly and wretchedly suck.

Art is sucking until we get better, then we move on to the next thing to suck at.

Writers don’t get an out just because we can edit our work, or because there was some asshole named Heinlein once upon a time who advised to never edit at all.

We’re going to suck. We have to suck to get better. We have to practice, to try writing the same scene over and over in our minds and on paper until it’s bits come together and it finally makes sense.

We have to practice sucking at first drafts, but completing them anyway; to feel the sense of a story as it rises and falls like breath and finally comes to rest on The End. Then, to go back and start again on the same story, writing it again, sometimes playing the same dastardly chords over and over until it sounds like music, and to finish the story again, over and over until it works.

We’re lucky in that no one can hear or watch our practice. They might ask us why we are taking so long to produce that novel, that story, that article. They don’t get it, but we do: we’re busy sucking and getting better. We have glorious rough drafts of missed notes and sour chords under our belts, and we’re seeing that effort pay off over time. We’re getting better, and pushing ourselves harder.

NaNoWriMo is that kind of practice, that important time when we just put a bow to the strings and play whatever music comes our way, however terrible it may sound at first. However many times the same notes are played over and over.

It’s okay. The roommates are willing to come back home eventually.

Now go write something dreadful and full of words.

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