Giving Yourself Permission to Write Badly

focus photo of yellow paper near trash can
Photo by Steve Johnson on


We’ve passed the halfway point of June. How? HOW? The year is sliding away. I’m trying to shift a massive workload, and my moods have been a bit up and down of late, but I think I am finally reaching the end of it. I’m hoping that working all these hours is going to free me a full week of research for the novel/la I’m trying to write. It will be worth it to be able to just sink into my own work, and I’m nearly there now, but goodness, I am tired. The image of me just sitting with my coffee, surrounded by books and disappearing into my current obsession is keeping me going. Though, knowing me, I will likely procrastinate for the whole week I’ve worked so hard for.

Something I’ve noticed over the last few weeks while I’ve been running the Approaching your Writing with a Beginner’s Mind course, and while I have been mentoring; something that is a recurring theme in workshops and courses and mentoring and something I see in myself, is the way we tend to prioritise, procrastinate and generally faff about when we actually do have time to write. It’s hard enough to make the time to write in the first place, so why are writers (all creatives?) so inclined to avoid the creative bit when they get anywhere near it? My experience is this: all writer’s block, all procrastination, all the avoidance techniques we create over our writing, whether subconscious or not, comes from a fear of failure. We put so much pressure on ourselves in the designated time that we do allow ourselves to write, that when we get there we flounder, fearing confirmation of the niggling thought that talks us into believing that actually, we aren’t talented and we are wasting time which could be better employed doing the washing up or we are too old, too isolated, simply not good enough to get where we want to be, so why bother. And then there is the blank page, the curser winking, the pencil lying still, the blank page stubbornly remaining blank. We prophesied it, it came true, we are rubbish after all.

How do we get round that? We accept that not all writing is brilliant, and we give ourselves permission to be crap at something. We don’t wallow in the crappiness, we don’t humble brag (“I won the pulitzer, but honestly, I don’t know what they were thinking because everything I write is crap” ) but we do allow ourselves the wiggle room needed to create something good. You can’t create well if you are bound up worrying that you’re going to create badly. Those milky, glossy opals of good writing need to be dug out, and sometimes you have to shovel a lot of dirt to get to them, but every spadeful of soil you turn builds muscles, hones hand eye coordination, makes you stronger, better, sharper. I think I’ve exhausted that metaphor now. I’ve talked about the rule of three, my firm belief that in every three pieces of writing created, one will be appalling, one will be decently crafted but a bit meh, and one will have the potential to be really good. But you’ve got to write all three, so you might as well accept that one of those pieces will be crap.

Go to your desk, set the washing up aside, it will still be there when you get back, and don’t worry about how long it’s going to take to write a short story or a poem or a novel or…whatever,  because the time will pass anyway, and don’t worry about getting it right, just get out written.


Don’t forget that my new course: What the Trees Talk About starts on July 1st. It’s a popular one, people love trees, and there are limited places. I’m loving doing the research around it. I have been out in my village identifying and guessing the ages of some of the trees in the lane and it has been lovely. I hope you’ll join us, it’s shaping up to be a lovely friendly group again.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s