In an interview with Joe Fassler of The Atlantic (online, May 2, 2017), one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Strout (Olive Kitteridge, Anything is Possible, I am Lucy Barton…to name a few of her outstanding novels) said something about writer’s block that I find wise and inspiring. Liz said:
“A bad day for me is when I write badly. It happens not infrequently, but I’ve never—knock on wood—actually had writer’s block. I’m always able to write; my form of writer’s block is just to write very poorly, which I think is better than not getting any words down at all. It used to be enormously frustrating for me when I knew I was writing badly. It still upsets me now, but I have enough perspective to know that I can go back and fix it later. I’ll make it better, that’s all.”
Oh, this is brilliant and thank you Elizabeth Strout! Because who cares if the writing is bad in a first draft (or even the second, or third, or fourth, or…)?
That’s what revision is for.
What matters most is that you write. That you write as boldly as you write badly on those days when you can’t seem to pull it all together. Because you can’t revise what you haven’t started, can you? And good writing — even if you nail a sentence or even a paragraph once in a while — is all about revising.
That’s my insight for today.