The Reality of Writing: “You have to remember that some days you won’t be very good”

From a post on niemanstoryboard.org by Jacqui Banasznski headlined “The slogging reality of writing”:

Writing is hard. Good writing is super hard. It’s lonely and doesn’t tolerate dilettantes or distractions. It’s you and the messy ideas in your head and the blinking cursor of the keyboard. There is no rescue.

At the same time, people can help: a sharp editor or a friend who will listen to your whines and then offer no-bullshit insights. Don’t make excuses for your lapse. Don’t argue against their advice. Just listen and ask good questions and take notes. Then get back to work. Rewrite what confused them; cut what bored them.

If you’re an editor or teacher or coach, you need to write now and then. What you write shouldn’t try to compete with the work of your staffers or students. A lot of them might be better than you, which should give you joy. But you need to dip back into your own original writing now and again to remember what that work takes.

No matter how often you write, or how good you are, you also have to remember that sometimes you won’t be very good. World-class athletes and rock-star musicians have their off days. So, too, writers. The only way through the sludge is to keep going through it, one keyboard stroke at a time. And yes, a lot of those strokes will land on the delete key.

Keep it simple. Forgetting that is probably what’s got me tangled up. I’m trying to connect all the dots, pull all the threads, on a big idea. Not possible, and not useful to the reader. I have to go back to a singular line or question that is part of the idea, find an engaging doorway that opens to it, then get on with it.

When all else fails — and it will — remember the Karate Kid. Wax on, wax off. Go for a walk or a run or a bike ride. Fold some laundry or mop the floor. Then get your butt back in that chair and slog forward.

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