Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Permission to suck


When I first starting doing martial arts, I struggled with insecurity next to more experienced belts. I felt like, no matter how hard I worked at it, I’d never be that good. Everyone else seemed to pick up on things sooner and their techniques were so much more graceful than mine. A black belt gave me some great advice. She said that whenever I was tempted to compare myself to someone else, I should tell myself “I’m a white belt; I don’t need to know that yet.”

It was great advice because it *allowed* me to suck. My only job was to keep showing up and keep practicing the skills I’d be tested on next. Sure, I could aspire to be as confident and effective as those black belts I saw. But it was going to take time. And lots of bruises, tears and sweat. In the mean time, the joy was in the process and in the leap of trying something new.

I need to take this advice to heart these days. My work-in-progress is stalling out (curses, you monstrous middles!) and I find myself wondering if I’ll ever be good enough to pull it off. I look around and see so many others finishing their drafts, landing agents or publishing books. And here I sit – unable to get through my lousy rough draft.

But, hey, my job right now is to just keep showing up. Every day. Ready to fight with all my heart and to the best of ability.

I may not be new to writing, but I *am* new to writing fiction. So say it with me, “I’m a white belt; I don’t need to be brilliant yet!”

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Anna 05.25.10 at 12:53 pm

Excellent advice! One of my writing buddies has a similar mantra: “I’m allowed to write utter poo.” Words to live by when you’re writing a first draft! You can always clean it up in revision. :-)

Andrea 05.25.10 at 2:04 pm

I love the “don’t need to know that yet”. In writing, there’s such a tendency to want to do everything the first time you write it down, but it’s pretty impossible. Some things you might not even realize you need to do until you finish your draft. You can always go back and work on character or setting or whatever it is that was lacking — when you’re ready to tackle it.

Kate Fall 05.25.10 at 7:35 pm

I like “it’s my job to show up.” That’s my new mantra. It’s not my job to win a Newbury on the first draft. It’s not my job to write my book faster than anyone else. This is my job: open the Word document. Type. Repeat.

Love the training. Trust that the training will work. (And that’s the hard part for me!)

Christina 05.31.10 at 2:24 am

Love this! You are sooooo right. Writing in so many ways is like the belt tests. You start out at white being totally clueless and learning as you go. But even when you get your black belt, you can keep training, keep getting better.

Thanks for this. I really needed this image!

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