It’s Okay to Suck, but It’s Better to be Good

‘It’s okay to suck’.  I read that a lot in writing blogs and podcasts.  Giving one the permission to be bad at writing so you can get the words on the page.  Maybe even get their daily word count up in the thousands.  And for new writers, I agree with that sentiment.  Novice writers produce inferior work.  They have to get their first million words down to leave Sucksville behind.  What I don’t accept are the seasoned writers, even some professionals that continue to suck.

I knew my writing was bad when I was younger.  I knew that the only way to get better was to keep writing until I stopped sucking.  It’s no different than any field that takes years of experience.

I started gardening back in 2008 when the salmonella salsa scare shot the price of tomatoes up to 3 bucks a pound.

“Screw that,” I told the cashier, putting the tomato to the side.  “I can grow them myself.”

And I did, that year I grew a bumper crop of tomatoes, onions and peppers and made some killer salsa.  But the next year black rot took all half my tomatoes and the following year all of them went bad.  That’s when I discovered the benefit of crop rotation (plant them in a different spot in the yard) and solarizing soil (put plastic over the dirt in the early spring).  I haven’t had a problem with that since.

As I added more items to the yard, berries, beans, potatoes, greens, etc… each came with their own challenges and many mistakes on my part.  I learned my lessons and got better.

In writing, I have participated on several boards, one with a weekly writing prompt (the Flash Factory on Zoetrope) and I’ve gone through a Plot Whisperer workshop (see Martha Anderson’s videos on YouTube.  The videos are awful but what she teaches is invaluable, God bless you Martha.)   I’ve also reviewed or critiqued thousands of flashes, hundreds of stories and dozens of novels.  All of that – and giving up my addiction to Civilization 5 (damn you Sid Meier) – has made me a better writer.

I don’t suck; I don’t write stories that suck, at least none that I’ll show anyone.  This doesn’t mean I’m a pro right now, it just means I’m more careful about what I write, just like I’m more careful about what I plant and where.  If I want some killer salsa this winter, I have to plan out my garden the winter before.  Every gardener knows this fact.  We writers need to learn that lesson as well.

Sure it’s okay to suck, as a gardener or as a writer.  But, it’s better to be good.

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