I’m so excited to welcome Jenny Hansen to the blog today. Jenny is just about the coolest person you’ll ever meet. She cruised with us last September and always has words of encouragement to share. This post, right here–bookmark it and come back to it whenever you’re feeling the writing “I Suck” blues coming on.
By Jenny Hansen
Every writer, whether they’re starting the journey or standing atop the bestseller lists, feels like they suck at some point. Demeaning words fly through their mind: imposter, sucktard, fakeball, loser.
It might happen once a month or once an hour. The point is, it will happen, so it’s best to be prepared.
Woody Allen says “80% of success is showing up.” The other 20% of our writing success is courage, perseverance and a stockpile of big girl/boy titanium underpants.
I repeat this lesson to myself every single year. If the message isn’t taking hold, I go hang out with a bunch of writers. Monthly writing chapter events dissipate those feelings of suckitude, as do writing conferences and groups like Cruising Writers and Lawson Writer’s Academy.
These places are filled with other people who are enduring the same torturous, defeating messages that bratty Writer’s Brain sends out when we sit our butts down to write.
- I’m too tired.
- I’ll do this after [fill in the blank].
- This book is crap.
- No one will buy this.
- No one will read this.
- I am such a hack.
And the favorite from the top of the post:
- My writing sucks.
These messages are where those titanium underpants come into play. [Y’all know about my obsession with the Undie-verse, right?]
Your courage and your willingness to make mistakes is what will keep you in that chair, even when you’re squirming against whatever doom and failure happen to be chasing through your psyche that day.
Neil Gaiman posted this wish for his readers a few New Year’s Eves back:
I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.
Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.
So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.
Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.
Make your mistakes, next year and forever.
Isn’t that awesome???
All the great minds of our time embrace mistakes because they embrace learning. They dare to suck, and that’s a beautiful thing.
There’s a lot to be said for just showing up.
Just showing up can be an act of great courage. Even if the only thing coming out of your fingertips is crappy writing and Twitter posts – especially if that’s where you are – showing up is an act of defiance that will pay off. That kind of iron will is what forges successful writers.
Sometimes you have to channel social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, and fake it till you make it. In fact, in her much-viewed TED talk, she says, “don’t fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it. Do it enough until you actually become it and internalize.”
Aristotle described it like this: ”We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit.”
So, the next time you are conviced that you suck, go hang out with a bunch of writers. Book a cruise, a conference, a class. No matter what, keep showing up to that page, hopefully in some cute-but-mighty underpants. At the very least, I hope you make some incredibly grand mistakes to fix and celebrate later.
You are an amazing magical writer. You’ve got this.
Do you worry about “sucking” when you write? What is your greatest writing challenge? And do you have any inspirational quotes to share?
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About Jenny Hansen
By day, Jenny provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. By night she writes news humor, memoir, women’s fiction and short stories. After 20+ years as a corporate software trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works.
When she’s not at her personal blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Twitter at JennyHansenCA or at Writers In The Storm.
You have no idea how timely this is. I feel like I know better by now—I logically know these moments of “I suck” happen and I need to push past them—and yet I still get waylaid by that feeling now and then. Thanks for reminding me not only that this is normal and can be overcome, but to rely on the amazing writing communities I’m a part of for encouragement and perspective!
What I love about this post is that it shows that we ALL feel like this. This is the writer’s universal truth.
We all feel like we suck some days, Julie. As Maureen Johnson says in her AWESOME video, “sucking is part of the writing process.” So, if you’re worrying that you suck, you’re totally doing your job! 🙂
Great post, Jenny 🙂 And just what I needed to hear today! I give myself permission to suck. Because that is the path to awesomeness.
Love this Edwina! That should be on a t-shirt ;).
I guarantee you that WILL be a t-shirt if Edwina can do it without looking too naughty. Maybe with a twist? –> “I am awesome at my job,” said no writer ever.
“I give myself permission to suck. Because that is the path to awesomeness.” <– New sign over my computer, thanks to you. 🙂
This actually got me back into my chair today. Thank you!
Leslie – awesome! Get those contest-winning fingers a-typing!
Wahooo!!! That makes my day, Leslie!
I am fully embracing my suckage. More progress in two days than whole past week. I kick ass at sucking. (And that means something completely different than what it did when I was in college.) ?
HAHAHAHAHA! You are making my whole week. I’m so glad you are embracing any imagined suckitude. And that you are moving forward. WOO!
I am actually feeling pretty un-sucky lately. That will, of course, change after I don’t final in a contest or I have a scene to write that’s harder to birth than septuplets (one kid was hard enough. I’m assuming seven is excruciating). But for now, the writing game is going well, so I’m going to ride the wave (hopefully) to the end of my first draft.
When I do feel suckitude coming on, though, I will think Edwina’s comment (it’s going above my computer, too)! (PS — Edwina, please make that a shirt!)
That is EXCELLENT, that you are riding the happy writing wave. I am too, now that I’ve moved over to non-fiction. It’s insane to me how much easier it is for my brain to wrap around. Keep going, Justine!!!
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