Learning to Suck

After years of being told that I have to be perfect when I write, I found myself reaching a point where I couldn’t get anything done. Projects that I initially loved were suddenly abandoned. Projects that I had dreamed about were set to the side as I would work and rework pages on other smaller projects. I was trying so hard to be something that I wasn’t. I was trying so hard to be someone that was perfect.

A lot of this comes from the notion that creative individuals aren’t supposed to show their work. They aren’t supposed to ‘suck’ or be ‘failures.’ I’ve struggled with this notion for a large portion of my life. I believed that I had to be perfect to be a good writer. I was so certain that I had to be the one cranking out beautifully written pages every day of the week. I thought that that was really what I had to be doing. I wanted to work so hard on some projects. But I knew that I wasn’t good enough, not to do the project justice. I would get scared away from projects just because of those ridiculous thoughts.

And then I stopped caring. I keep all my projects. They’re organizing in weird spaces. There are currently four projects that I work on with any sort of regularity, but if you were looking at my writing tracking, you would only see two. And right now, you would only see one because all of my energy is being poured into the one project. It’s not even a bad thing. It’s just something that happens sometimes. I just find my way into one project and another. I’m trying to jump back into older ones instead of starting new ones.

But part of this endless cycle of projects has been letting myself suck. There is one story in my rotation that’s gone by so many different names. Right now, I’m simply calling it Metal Wing. I’m not going to get into the details of the story or tell you what it’s about, but I will tell you that it hasn’t always been what it was. It started out as a hard mix of magic and technology. It was more fantasy than sci-fi. Over the years, it’s fluctuated from sci-fi to fantasy and then back again.

Right now it sits somewhere on the sci-fi side, but it could really change soon. I’m enjoying letting the story play where it wants to. I’m not going to try and chase the story into the corner that I want. For years, this story has floated around inside of my head. There was a period of roughly three years where I stopped writing it. I stopped working on it. I didn’t want to touch it because I was so afraid that I was going to ruin it. I wanted to paint this beautifully dark city and these people that were broken in such tragic ways.
I still want that story. I am still looking for that story, but I’m not forcing Metal Wing into any corner this time around. I’m letting it live in my head and letting it trickle onto the paper. I’m a little more aggressive now, forcing the words onto the page, but I’m not a terrible person for doing that.

My story won’t just happen if I wait around long enough. I have to let the story happen; I have to let the story suck. If the story doesn’t suck at first, then it doesn’t have a chance to be reworked into something greater. You can’t make a masterpiece out of nothing. You need that ugly blob or block of clay before you can begin to shape the thing you really want.


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