The Importance Of Writing Badly

Posted by on October 12, 2016

McKella Sawyer

Have you ever heard of National Novel Writing Month? It takes place in November every year, and the idea is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. That’s about the length of The Great Gatsby.

To do this, you write 1,667 words per day. 

I’ve never done NaNoWriMo before, but this year I’m going to do it.

I’m committing to write a novel in a month.

Notice I didn’t say a good novel. Any novel that I write in just a month will be pretty much unreadable. In fact, I’m pretty sure that most novels written in such a short period of time are pretty bad.

So why bother? Why not take my time, write carefully, and write a good novel the first time?

Because the point is to get it done, to make the habit of writing freely, and to give myself something I might be able to edit and make readable later.

For all writers and creatives, I believe it’s important to let yourself do something badly.


1- It’s a numbers game.

The more you write, the more you increase the likelihood of writing something good. Think about it: If you write 500 careful words per day, how much of that will be good, and how much will you have to rewrite?

Let’s be generous here and say that you’ll end up keeping half of what you write. If you write 500 words, you’ll keep 250.

But if you go for it and write 2,000, chances are that 1,000 of those will be pretty good! Even if only 750 are good, that’s way more than you’d have by writing 500 words.

By “good”, I mean clear, engaging, and right. Honest. Interesting. 

2- It gets you in the habit of writing, and habit is everything.

“What you do every day is more important than what you do once in awhile.”  -Gretchen Rubin

Writing 1,000 words every day is better than a 5,000 word marathon every two weeks. Your brain will learn to turn your creativity off and on like a light switch. You’ll learn that once you sit down to write and fire up your computer (or put your pencil to paper, if you’re old school), it’s time to get down to business.

You’ll get better and focusing and spend less time waffling around, absentmindedly staring out the window and playing with Slinkies. (I swear I’ve seen at least a few movies with writers who play with Slinkies to procrastinate.)

You’ll be in the habit of getting it done.

3- You’ll learn to take risks without judging yourself.

Nothing is more intimidating than the blank page.

We can let that page get so scary that instead of just slapping some words to paper, we write nothing. We want it to be perfect.

When you let go of perfection and give yourself permission to write badly, you get something on the page. Something is always better than nothing. No matter how clumsy your writing it, you can edit it, revise it, rework it. You can’t edit nothing. Writing something poorly gives you something to work with.

“I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build sandcastles.” -Shannon Hale

4- You sharpen your editing skills.

Most of writing is rewriting, editing, and revising, and when you write a lot, you’re going to edit a lot too. This is where the gold is. This is where the underlying beauty of your writing will come through as you carefully wipe away the extraneous adverbs, choppy sentences, and flabby paragraphs. You’ll get good at this.

Don’t be afraid to write badly. Just write!

Before you go…

Don’t forget to check out my massive art sale in my Etsy shop!

I’m clearing out my studio to make room for some new art that I can’t wait to show you!

Over 30 of my original paintings and mini paintings will be on sale for a limited time, so now’s the time to brighten up your space or start your Christmas shopping! (Am I the only one who starts Christmas shopping in October?)

Click the image to visit my shop!

McKella Sawyer


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