Dealing with Ugly Stepchildren and Other Realities of Writing Life


I am currently writing what I consider the worst book I have ever written. But on the other hand, I am writing it.

After all, according to Anne Lamott, writers have to give themselves permission to write a “shitty first draft” (her words, not mine). Because if you don’t give yourself that permission, in many cases, nothing will get written.

I’ve been there before. It’s what I call the Ugly Stepchild phase. You’re enamored by the idea of the book, but the reality that comes out of the keyboard bears little resemblance to the wondrous ideas you had to begin with. It’s the reality of writing: your writing skill will never match the ideal in your head. Face it. As much as you polish and whittle and fix it, it won’t be exactly the animal you intended.

On the other hand, there’s the miracle that happens when your story takes on a life of its own. When your characters start deciding what will happen next, rather than having you plod from plot point to plot point. That’s when writing becomes fun. And exciting. You might even become proud of being a writer.

But writing is sometimes a chore. Sometimes it’s downright onerous. Like today. I got another chapter written. Probably the worst one I ever wrote.

But I got it written. And so I will continue on. And maybe it will all get better eventually.

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