This post originally appeared HERE on July 5, 2011
This post is inspired by something that Push and I were talking about earlier. Now, of course we should all strive to write the best possible stories we can write. At the very least make sure that everything is spelled correctly, the format is easy to read and your grammar and punctuation are correct. Also desirable is writing people in character and having a funny, sad or interesting story to tell, no matter how epic or how short.
If you look at any writer's body of work, chances are not everything they write is going to be amazing. That's not to say that the lesser pieces have to be terrible, but if we all resigned ourselves to only writing amazing, incredible stories then most of us probably wouldn't spend a whole lot of time writing. I'd love for every idea I come up with to be one of those attention-grabbing, unique, epic pieces that people just can't get enough of. But that's probably not all that likely to happen. Sure, it might happen once or twice, but nobody can churn out that kind of thing one after another.
So the trick is to get over it and just keep writing. Accept things for what they are and if you have an idea you think might be fun to write, but maybe you know before you even write it that it's not going to be some incredibly compelling story, go ahead and write it anyway. And share it if you want to. That's not to say you must share every little thing you write, but maybe you don't have to be so hung up on what people will think and hope that they understand just as you do that it is what it is.*
I'm still trying to come up with some amazing story idea but it hasn't happened yet.** Come on, guys, I have one story that is 1700 words of Leia coming home to find Han in the tub.*** That's pretty much it. You think I wrote that one night because I thought it would be award-winning literature? Um, no. I wrote it because I was bored, I had a silly, fun idea that I thought maybe some people might enjoy a silly, fun read and hopefully it did not damage my reputation too much.**** I love writing, I felt like writing, that was what came to me, so I wrote it.
I think this kind of thing can be especially crippling if you have just finished something that you actually considered to be pretty high quality. You can't think of anything right away that might top it, so you don't write anything. My best advice is just to get over it and not take it too seriously. I've felt the same thing myself in the past and realized there's no real reason to dwell on it. Sure, we get reviews and stuff, but there are not major literary critics out there to tell everyone that we're past our peak. It's all in good fun and we shouldn't lose sight of that.
There are Oscar-winning writers out there who wrote incredible movies and sometimes wrote some less memorable ones. It's okay. It happens. It's just like how sometimes I want to watch The Shawshank Redemption but then other times I'm more in the mood to watch Old School. Do you think I'm deluded enough to think that Old School is a better movie? No, but they can't all be Shawshank and that doesn't mean we can't totally enjoy laughing at Will Ferrell being Frank the Tank.*****
So again, do the best you can do with your writing, but don't let that internal critic stop you before you even start. Don't be afraid to write something just because you don't think it will be 'good enough.' Otherwise you'll be out of practice when you do come up with a good idea or you'll wind up giving up entirely. And sometimes the bad ideas can lead to the good ideas, so don't stop writing!
*I'm still much in favor of writing if you have an idea, even if you have no intent to share it. It's very freeing.
**And nearly 6 years later, still no fantastic, epic ideas.
***It's true, I really do have a story where the entire plot is just Leia coming home and finding Han in the tub.
****This is amusing because I don't really have a reputation.
*****And I think we can all agree that there are plenty of times that Old School is just going to be more entertaining than The Shawshank Redemption.