Embrace your bad writing.

Have you ever had a day when everything you seem to write comes out like absolute crap? You erase line after line of text because it just isn’t right, and no matter what you do you can’t get that “magic tone” you’re looking for. You try what they tell you to try. You walk away from it and come back to see if you like it better once you’ve had a break. You write something different for a while and start over later to see if you have better luck. You even take a shot of tequila, because someone somewhere once said having a serving of alcohol helped the creative juices flow.

And yet, you still hate everything that’s coming out.

These days can be really disheartening, especially if there are other things going on that make us feel like we just can’t do it. We all want to believe everything we write is pure gold–and usually we do. Most writers I know are very confident about what they’re doing, and they recognize their own good writing from their bad writing. It stings.

Sometimes, especially if it’s really bad–especially if we’re going through a really long, hard writing drought–we want to give up.

I’m here to say this: absolutely do not give up.

Bad writing is part of the equation when you want to be a writer. You will have bad days. You’ll have a lot of bad days. You may have bad weeks or months or even years. It could take you what feels like decades to get back into a “good” writing place, where you are confident with your work again, and proud of what you produce. That doesn’t mean all the writing you do between then and now is wasted.

Quite the contrary.

I feel like I learn a lot more from my bad writing than I ever do from my “good” writing. I feel like, when I’ve finally cooled off and stopped hating myself for the crap on the page, I can really see what it is I don’t like about a piece of work, and do better to avoid making those mistakes in the future.

Bad writing also helps us see our own growth. The fact that you can recognize your own bad writing is actually a sign of great improvement. If you don’t recognize your own bad writing, you haven’t really discovered what it means to be a “good” writer yet. And being “good” varies from person to person and from project to project. Someone who has been writing for twelve years will have a very different definition of what “good” personal writing is than someone who has been seriously writing for three.

Finally, even if you’re producing work you feel isn’t up to your typical standard, at least you’re producing work. If you have been hating every word you put down on the page, at least be glad you haven’t stopped writing. Be glad you haven’t given up, despite the fact that you are dissatisfied. You are already doing better than the vast majority of people who give up when they feel defeated.

Go you. Embrace your art and write on until better days!


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