The Fear of Writing Badly

I have heard many writers say that part of writer’s block may be the subconscious fear of writing poorly. Of turning out dreck. And this is also the reason some people never start writing in the first place—if it’s not going to come out perfectly the first time, it’s too much work.

I can honestly say I have never been plagued by this particular writing demon (which is rather shocking given the plethora of anxieties I DO have). My key to freedom is twofold:

1) I cannot help but write poorly.
2) Anything I write can be fixed.

Number one is important because nothing we write will ever be perfect. There are some days the writing flows, but then there are the days when every word is a struggle and what comes out is utter blech. It is unavoidable that you will write poorly sometimes. Worrying about it is rather like worrying that the sun might come up in the morning. It’s going to happen no matter what you do.

And that’s okay.

Did you hear me? It’s okay to write crap. We all do it. And why is it okay? Because of statement number two: Anything I write can be fixed.

I am learning and growing as a writer all the time, but there are still things I need to work on. There are still facets of the writing craft I don’t fully understand. And much of my poor writing comes from these gaps in my continuing education. I make mistakes I don’t know I’m making, or even mistakes I know I am making but do not know how to fix.

Sometimes I learn what I need to know and can fix the poor writing myself. More often I need crit partners or editors to point out to me just what went wrong with the writing. By the time I have finished taking all of the feedback from my readers, crit partners, and editors and put it into practice, a wonderful thing occurs: My poor writing improves! And the more I work—the more I learn—the more it improves!

So don’t let fear of writing poorly hold you back. Write. Write well, write poorly, but just write. Because once the words are on the page, even the worst writing can be fixed. But if the words stay in your head, you can’t improve them. You can’t learn from them. You can’t transcend them.

Don’t fear bad writing—embrace it as a necessary step toward excellence.

Bad writing is never a failure—unless you don’t learn from it.

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