Photo by Marko Kivela / Creative Commons

Great article in The Atlantic by Megan McArdle about why some writers (ahem…) procrastinate.

I fit the “good-in-English-class-so-therefore-creative-writing-must-be-easy” type. When it isn’t easy, it feels like failure.

But good writing is all about failing. A lot. What exists as a work of staggering genius in your head grows feet of clay as it flops with a wet plop onto the page.

The bad news is that being a writer means having to get comfortable living in a place of failure, feeling like you’re always coming up short. The good news is that we get to fail in private. (For a while, at least. At some point, you have to send your little darling into the world…but that’s a topic for another post.)

I just read about a writer who titles every first draft “Crappy First Draft,” so she doesn’t get hung up on being perfect. The trick is to just keep on failing (i.e., rewriting) but trying to fail a little less each time. (“Suck less” is practically a motto at Pixar.)

All writers fail their way to success. The catch is that the rest of us don’t see the failures; all we see is the finished product, the masterpiece.

But masterpieces are like ducks, gliding ahead with seemingly no effort, while just below the surface feet are churning like mad.

Duck Paddle

Intellectually, rationally, all writers know this; but most of us suffer from Salieri syndrome, convinced that we are the impostor, the no-talent struggler, surrounded by Mozarts dropping masterpieces like loose change. The reality is that almost every writer I know is a Salieri. (The article touches on “Impostor Syndrome,” too.)

So what’s the trick? Pretty simple:  Keep paddling.