why sucking is a necessary part of success

Before you think I’m being pervy…

I’m not talking about a potential sexual harassment case.

I’m talking about being horrible at what you do.

There’s actually a BENEFIT to allowing yourself to suck.

Case in point, I just came across an interesting post from a frustrated copywriter:

My trouble is getting started. I can’t seem to produce text rapidly without awakening my internal editor.

This is a common problem for most writers.

In fact, it can be downright paralyzing, especially for people newer to the craft.

It goes a little something like this:

  • You write a couple sentences.
  • You pause to noodle with the phrasing a bit.
  • You stop to ponder where to go next.
  • You check email and Facebook.
  • You come back and noodle some more.
  • You write a few more sentences.
  • You delete those sentences.
  • You check email again… maybe there’ll be something more interesting to work on?

And suddenly a whole day has passed and you haven’t managed to write a single page.

This is what happens when you let your internal editor loose on an unfinished draft.

Let’s get clear on your internal editor’s job:

They’re there to perfect whatever you put on the page. But if you haven’t put anything substantive on the page, all that editor’s gonna do is bring your work to a grinding halt.

If you are trying to edit while you write, it’s kinda like sitting in a rocking chair. Yeah, technically you’re moving… but you’re not actually getting anywhere.

There’s a way to get moving and produce writing at a rate that might surprise you…

Give yourself permission to suck.

I’ll let you in on a secret… this isn’t my first draft.

If it were, it’d include a hell of a lot more swearing.

Most of my first drafts start out sounding something like this:

Shit, I gotta write something. I don’t know what to write. I’ve got no ideas today. This is the day they find out I’m a fraud and have no idea what I’m doing. I hope I come up with an idea soon because my ass is getting flat from sitting on the couch too long trying to think of a single fucking good idea.

Eventually, after awhile of forcing myself to write even if the idea’s not really clear, my brain latches onto a shiny thread and it turns into something I can write about.

This is not divine inspiration, or a visit from the creative muse.


This is putting your ass in a chair and making yourself write, even if the words suck at first.

Because if you sit down and force yourself to write, eventually you’ll come up with a nugget of something that you can salvage from your shitty first draft and turn into something amazing.

This is what happens when you turn off the inner editor (more like your inner Judgy McJudgerson asshole voice), and allow yourself to play in the sandbox and just kick dirt around for awhile.

And that’s what you’re REALLY after. Not a perfect first draft… the perfect IDEA for a draft.

No one is going to read your first draft unless you show it to them (and frankly I have NO clue why you’d ever want to do that. If I showed you a true first draft of mine, you really WOULD wonder how I have the audacity to call myself a writer).

Give yourself permission to write some really shitty stuff.

The faster you can get all the shitty writing out of the way, the faster you’ll get to the idea you really want to get across.

And for the love of all that’s holy, shut that internal editor up until you finish drafting.

Put that internal editor in a cage in the back of your mind, and don’t let him or her out to play until you’re finished with your first draft.

Once you’re done with the first draft, it’s OK to let your internal editor slice and dice and rip and shred to their heart’s content.

After all, writing is rewriting. Cutting and editing and trimming and reworking is what really makes your work shine.

But you’ll never get better if you can’t even produce a first draft.

And you can’t write that first draft if you’re trying to edit at the same time.

So to you who struggle with actually putting the words on the page, I say this:

Permission to suck: granted.


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