The Crappy Writer Hat versus the Fancy Writer Hat
When I speak to writers–professionals and beginners alike–there seems to be a LOT of worry out there about being a “good” writer. Imagine that!
Apparently a lot of us writers out there want to write WELL. The nerve! Consequently, I also get a lot of questions along the lines of, “how do I stay motivated enough to finish a project?” And I find this line of questioning extremely fitting because I’ve always found that the struggle to write well goes hand in hand with the struggle to finish a novel. In other words, as soon as I start obsessing about whether or not my writing is “good” that’s when I lose all my motivation to write.
And that’s because finishing a FIRST draft is not the same thing as finishing a GOOD draft. They are essentially two different skills. And trying to accomplish them both at once is like trying to whistle and play harmonica and sing the national anthem (backward) AT THE SAME TIME! It can’t be done! You have to think of these things (finishing a draft and perfecting a draft) as two different tasks that require you to put on two different hats.
The first hat (the one you wear when you’re struggling to get through NaNoWriMo, or just struggling to finish a rough draft) is a washed-up, faded, sweaty ball cap with the words “Crappy Writer” barely legible on the front. The writer who wears this hat is exactly what the hat says: A CRAPPY WRITER. This writer is a lazy, F-minus slacker who doesn’t give a darn about what goes down on the page, as long as something goes down on the page. This writer is a student who turns in homework with all the answers wrong, and often leaves questions blank. This is the crappiest of all crap writers! And this is what YOU must become in order to keep going and finish that rough draft. In fact, let’s just stop calling it the “Rough Draft” and start calling it what it really is: “The Crap Draft”
Then, once Crappy Writer is retired and the Crap Draft is done, only THEN can you take off the faded ball cap and put on the other hat: the prim and proper, attending-a-wedding-in-the-English-countryside hat with the designer label that says, “Fancy Writer”. The writer who wears this hat is a perfectionist who speaks in a posh accent, throws elegant dinner parties, and uses correct grammar in every sentence, even when it sounds ridiculous like, “With whom are you going to the ball?” This writer likes to plant rose gardens, and buy expensive art and drink tea with their pinkies out. This is the writer who’s going to turn that stinky pile of crap into a beautiful, shiny book. This writer would never even use the word “crap.”
But like I said, you can’t be both at once. These two writers would NEVER get along in real life. Fancy Writer wouldn’t even dare be in the same room with Crappy Writer. So don’t try to make them get along in your head. It won’t be pretty. Give them their separate spaces, let them do their very separate jobs and the world (and your mind) will be a much happier place.
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