25. “Let the story come. Don’t edit yourself. You have to write some crap first.” (224) (Megan Staffel’s ‘Dear Laurie’)
Self-doubt is a tricky little number. It sneaks up on you when it has no right to.
By all accounts, my writing process has gone better than I expected. Last night, I hit the 100,000 word mark. That’s an astounding number of words for me to think about; and I did it in about 7 weeks.
So I’ve been able to write. And not just write, like really able to write. The words come. Most days I’ve found good headspace to produce my art and write these words. I’ve had small sizzles of something like writer’s block, but it’s been escaped quickly.
But, as things have gone well, I find myself—when away from the computer—doubting what I’ve written. Saying, yeah it’s 100,000 words but they’re probably not any good. Or worse, I’ve already labeled parts of my story boring. And few things are worse than boring fiction.
I’m writing these thoughts off as part of the process. Fuel to keep me in check. If I think my story might be boring, it’s all the more reason to find places to infuse tension into my plot.
In that way, this advice is really helpful. Self-doubt, if I let it get to me, would have me trying to edit while I write. And I’d probably never move on; or would much more slowly. So Staffel’s idea of writing some crap first is helpful.
I’ve encountered this advice before. And I knew it going in; which helped fend off the doubt as it came. It’s in Anne Lamott’s excellent book on writing Bird by Bird that she dedicates a whole chapter to what she calls “Shitty First Drafts”. And it’s the same idea—get your story out and on paper before you start diagnosing its quality. Or, going into it, just accept that your brain will probably think the first go at things will be shitty.
So I’ll push on. Writing every day that I can. Sitting with the doubt and not letting it throw me off. Continuing to let the story come and not editing myself. Finish this draft. Sit with it. Read it. And then edit it until I’m blue in the face and dare not think it crappy, shitty, or boring ever again.