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What feels like the end
Learning to be bad at things
I’m learning to be bad at things.
The irony, of course, is that I’m bad at being bad. It’s very simply not in my nature. Part of it is anxiety: I like to think I have worth beyond my accomplishments, but deep down, I’m afraid of losing what little worth I possess by not immediately succeeding at whatever I set out to do. Part of it is being what they call a “gifted and talented millennial” (remind me to write about growing up in the GTD program as someone with a disability). And part of it is just stubbornness. I want to be good at everything, thank you very much, and how dare you insinuate that perfection isn’t possible!
But that’s part of it. Being bad at things, I mean. There’s no universe in which “being bad at things” doesn’t result in varying amounts of discomfort.
That’s what I tell myself, anyway, as I boot up Scrivener and settle in for a day of writing. Discomfort is a good thing. It means you’re growing. It means you’re accessing the full spectrum of experience as a human being.
That’s what I tell myself.
Years ago, while watching one of Cheyenne Barton’s videos, I jotted down an idea for a future blog post: “being bad at art.”
In the video, Cheyenne — one of my favorite artists and all-around internet people — mentioned that she was letting herself be bad at art. That manifested as messing around in her sketchbook with no concern for the final product. She wanted to learn how to draw more stylized, dynamic characters, so that’s what she set to do, regardless of whether she was good at it.
That note sat in my drafts for a long time. I remembered it from time to time, but never felt drawn to the subject enough to write about it.
Then I started fast drafting.
I’m a slow writer. Physically, because I’m typing every letter with a mouse and an on-screen keyboard, but also mentally and emotionally. It took me over a decade to write my first novel. I wrote my second novel, THE SAINT AND THE SPIDER, in a little over five months, and revised it over the span of two years. I knew going into my third book that I wanted to make my creative process more efficient, so I bought Lindsay Eagar’s course on fast drafting.
The heart of the course is learning to silence your inner editor while drafting. I’m pretty good at it, at least when it comes to nonfiction — I’ve been writing about my life as a disabled woman for so long that I can pretty reliably write 800 words in less than an hour. But fiction is a different story altogether. I get stuck in this loop of writing a sentence and revising it until the sentence and I want nothing more to do with each other.
Educational courses are tax-deductible, so I bit the bullet and entered the world of fast drafting. It was, as expected, utterly and thoroughly terrifying. 90,000 words in a week? What kind of brain works like that? Definitely not mine.
But I was determined. I took the course in the back of a moving vehicle on my way home from the annual Cure SMA conference and dedicated myself to drafting AN ANGEL IN THE GARDEN faster than I ever thought possible.
I’m so bad at fast drafting.
I’ve been doing it for, like, a week, so my flailing is to be expected, but I forgot how shitty it feels to be bad at something. It’s even worse when the thing you’re bad at just so happens to be the thing you want to do for the rest of your life. My brain is a constant repetition of everything sucks and maybe I’m not cut out for this.
But I show up anyway. I boot up Scrivener, remember where I left off the day before, and get to work. The first few days were awful. But just yesterday I wrote 1,000 words in a couple of hours. What’s more, I didn’t hate every second of it. The words started flowing and I remembered, for the first time in a while, that I love writing. It just took me a while to get there.
Maybe being bad isn’t the end of the world.
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