08 May 2012

Thank you, Mr. Block

I receive regular e-mails from Writer's Digest with different online articles.  In a recent e-mail they highlighted some of what they termed "Timeless Quotes About Writing".

One in particular really touched a cord with me at the time and I've tried to take its words and meaning to heart and apply it in my work:

"One thing that helps is to give myself permission to write badly. I tell myself that I’m going to do my five or 10 pages no matter what, and that I can always tear them up the following morning if I want. I’ll have lost nothing—writing and tearing up five pages would leave me no further behind than if I took the day off." 

~Lawrence Block, June 1981

It's not always easy to give ourselves permission to do something like write badly.  Especially when our goal is to stop writing badly.  To put into practice all of those amazing things we've learned at writing conferences, through critiques, and by reading books and articles about writing.

We spend valuable time and money trying to become better and so maybe we think that in order to make it worthwhile we need to do well the first time and then when we're editing make it better.  But why?

I've often found the urge to go back and edit something interrupts my flow, but I don't often force myself to ignore it.  I let myself make it better right away.  But at what cost?

I want all of my pages to be worth keeping, but I need to acknowledge that I will never get to the point at which ALL of  my pages are worth keeping, no matter how hard I try or what I do with them.  

What is worth keeping is the experience that I'll have gained by allowing the bad pages to be written with to good.  Even if I throw them out I'll have the experience of them.  I'll be, as Mr Block said, "no further behind than if I took the day off," but I'll have put in the time and have kept the writing habit and have whatever I may learn in the process of the creation and possibly the destruction of those pages.

The day after I read this quote (same day as I wrote this post), I wrote 15 pages in my current novel.  Are they all worth keeping?  I think that's a question for tomorrow.

For me this little quote spoke volumes.  Thank you, Mr. Block.

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