Don’t be perfect: the janitor approach

fingers on keyboard

Today’s note is about one of the big barriers that keeps people from writing: perfection. Many folks believe that writing has to be right when it gets typed in, or at least they act that way. I don’t know if you’ve ever found yourself writing a sentence, and then backspacing over the sentence because it’s not good enough, doesn’t sound right, or seems otherwise defective. If I believe I must write perfect words and perfect sentences, I’ll struggle to get a single word out, which makes a 50,000 word project a bit daunting.

My advice is that you write it down and don’t worry about it. You can always fix it, right? An ugly sentence can always be revised, a bad plot idea improved, a dull character sharpened. If I approach writing this way, I’m more likely to be able to get words on the page, which is the very first step in writing a novel. Get words on your page. Get lots of them there.

A fairly large portion of the writing process is about fixing ugly writing, so we don’t have to get it right the first time. I’m a janitor. I make a mess and then clean it up. But if I don’t make a mess first, I’ve got nothing to do. Be a janitor. That’s what the writing process is all about.  Making the words better, the plot stronger, the characters well developed is for another day. This is about getting the gist of the story down.

About Bill Bunn

Bill’s excited because his second YA novel, Kill Shot, is now available everywhere! Bill Bunn is the author of several books, essays, and articles. He is currently writing two pages a day to generate the rough draft of his next novel. Bill Bunn lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Bill teaches English at Mount Royal University.
This entry was posted in advice, Essays, fiction, non-fiction, Writing advice, Writing process, Young Adult and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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