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The Secret to Writing Well? Give Yourself Permission to Suck.

Updated on November 15, 2010
Relax: Nothing you write is permanent.
Relax: Nothing you write is permanent.

Writing for an audience is intimidating.

The secret?

Give yourself permission to suck at it.

There is no pressure. The page doesn’t expect anything from you. The reader doesn’t even exist yet, so forget about them. That weight on your shoulders? You placed it there. Don’t expect perfection from yourself. Nothing you write will in and of itself change the face of the planet. Not immediately at any rate.

You are not the greatest writer in the world - and that’s OK. None of the great literary artists have – irrespective of the quality of their creations – consistently been “the best in the world.” Almost all though, without exception, were persistent.

Stop aiming for perfection, and settle for persistence. One article, essay, novel or draft in front of the other. Writing and life have a lot in common like that: the changes you notice in each tend to be incremental. Improvement is almost imperceptible. Give yourself permission to suck at writing, and you’ll find you rarely do actually suck.

The best writing you ever do will come out of the freedom you give yourself to fail. Stop trying to prove to yourself that you’re a writer by constantly aiming for perfection.

When I began writing this article, I really didn’t give a sh*t about how it would turn out. Neither should you. Is this piece any good? That’s for you to decide. But I do know that there is a lot more of me in here than there would have been if I couldn’t have gotten over my obsession with perfection. And I think that’s a good thing.

Now hop off that high horse and go write some more.

If you feel like a writer, you probably are.


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    • tom hellert profile image

      tom hellert 

      8 years ago from home


      ya mean the secret to writing isn't stinging nettles tea?

      sorry I am a punk for saying it i knowbut It is one thing that it doesn't cure although maybe it does...



    • Shadesbreath profile image


      8 years ago from California

      Truer advice could not be given. It reminds me of and old song that has lyrics that go, roughly, "you have dance like there's nobody watching, and you have to sing like there's nobody listening..." etc. I think your giving people permission to give themselves permission to suck is absoloutely and completely true. Besides, sometimes really awesome ideas come out even in sucky works, and you can go back and polish them up into little gems.

    • robertaharden profile image

      Roberta S 

      8 years ago from California on the rocks

      This hub reminded me of that Jerry Maguire scene where he starts writing his mission statement booklet. He just did it, nothing could stop him anymore, he wasn't intimidated by his audience or the possible negative outcome of his opinion...

    • 2uesday profile image


      8 years ago

      After reading this I realised although it is about writing you could apply it to other subjects to; a piece of white paper waiting for an image to be drawn on can be intimidating. It also applies to other practical things and is worth remembering. I voted it useful as the advice here certainly is and I liked the way it was written. Thank you.

    • wingedcentaur profile image

      William Thomas 

      8 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

      Good Day ilmdamaily

      I like this one. I read both the hub and all the comments with great interest. This is such elemental advice you give here that we often forget, as we reach for the next technical how-to hub or something else which almost purports that it will open up the gates of Shangri La for you if you only follow ("these five easy steps") and so forth.

      I liked your remark in one of the replies to a comment. You have to understand the difference between being and trying. With respect to writing I generally follow that path. I do very little editing or second guessing. I let if flow.

      My rule of thumb is that if I struggle or "try" to write something, the reader will struggle or "try" to read, and perhaps give up on it half way through, if not sooner.

      Anyway, well done. Voted up for useful.

    • profile image

      honey's girl 

      8 years ago

      great advice from mentor,m still wondering:)how to put words and tenses in a sequence order.hope will definitely learn something from u.

    • lorlie6 profile image

      Laurel Rogers 

      8 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Excellent advice! Bookmarked for a constant reminder-thanks!

    • Leafy Den profile image

      Leafy Den 

      8 years ago from the heart

      ilmdamaily, thank you for your kind comments! Trust me, I have a relentless inner critic that often blocks me from writing. I think your advice here is among the best, just getting down and doing it and not worrying about anything else but telling the story!

      Technique can always be refined but the writing has to happen in order to have something to refine. I suppose there is one more element to getting it on the page. Although, getting it down on the page is paramount to anything else. Once you get it down, it sometimes helps to walk away and leave it. Come back to it later. If needed, you can always edit then. :-)

    • ceciliabeltran profile image


      8 years ago from New York

      I think this applies to life in general! You must not be afraid to suck. You have found a key to unblocking the source. Many people think writing is a skill of stringing words. It is not. It is the skill of self honesty and fearlessness! Great one. Look at the comments...ooh.

    • ilmdamaily profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from A forgotten corner of a dying empire. OK, it's Australia :-)

      Thank you so much Leafy!

      As useful as this hub has been for you, I've seen your writing: and you definately don't suck! So you'll have to share your techniques with us!!

      Take care:-)

    • Leafy Den profile image

      Leafy Den 

      8 years ago from the heart

      Whew!!! Big sigh of relief... Thank you for this! That inner judge is always on the alert and is a big motormouth - hard to shut him/her up. Great tools for silencing that annoying pest and just getting on with the writing :-)

      You have a new fan!

    • ilmdamaily profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from A forgotten corner of a dying empire. OK, it's Australia :-)

      Thanks for the comment Tusitala Tom!

      You make an excellent point - when we're caught up in the joy of doing what we love, that our skills actually make as profession X or Y is of secondary importance, and sneaks up on us.

      And maybe that's how it should be!

      I dub thee: the accidental writer!

      Take care:-)

    • Tusitala Tom profile image

      Tom Ware 

      8 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Good, short, terse article, Indamaily. I find it strange, though, that you mention writing for an audience being intimmidating. After writing for over forty years that thought never occurred. I didn't even see myself as a writer until around fifty, my daughter said, "of course you're a writer, Dad, you're always at it." It took that long for the 'penny to drop.'

      It was the same with my public speaking After I'd been at it for about ten years someone said "Oh, Tom's a storyteller." And that's when I realized that was true, too. Virtually all my speeches were stories.

      Point I make: We needn't try to be anything: writer, speaker, poet. If we just do what we love and love what we do...that's enough.

    • ilmdamaily profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from A forgotten corner of a dying empire. OK, it's Australia :-)

      @Katiem2: lol thanks Katie:-) Glad you liked it! Keep setting the world on fire with your writing (and hair!) ;-)

      @Slainia: Thanks for the comment:-) I guess the key is to know the difference between trying and being. When we "try" to be perfect, we seek to stretch ourselves beyond what we are, to some imagined, external standard. But when we "be" and just let ourselves write as we wish to write, we find ourselves much closer to perfection, as we allow our self to unfold free of self criticism. We can't be anyone else, so we may as well be great at being ourselves - and getting rid of artifical standards is a step in that process :-)

      @bonnebarton: Thanks for stopping by, and for the comment:-) Nice hubs by the way! Whoa, that would sound a little dirty in any other context lol:-P

      @BeccaHubbardWoods: Thanks Becca - glad I could put a new spin on it for you:-)

      @LeonJane: Too true! Thanks for the comment Leon:-) When you enjoy what you are writing about, the words and the talent flow much easier. Go with your strengths and write about what you love - let others strengths dovetail into your own blind spots. Life is like a team sport in that way:-)

      @Pamela Kinnaird W: Thanks for taking the time to see past the language Pamela:-)

      Of course, I know that my choice of language is not to everyone's taste - but you do make an excellent point: a quality of good writing can be that it polarises the audience. Love it, hate it, just don't forget it! Of course I guess it helps if we temper that with a sensible or meaningful choice of topics when we write.

      I think I was perhaps using this to demonstrate a marketing prinicple, too: that when marketing something we should write for a specific, well-defined group of people, and ignore everyone else. I think too many people fail in their marketing attempts by trying to please too many people at once. But that is by the by.

      And thank you sincerely for your wishes of luck! Germany would be a fantastic place to ride!!! Maybe I will bump into him without realising who he is:-)

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Dapples 

      8 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      I enjoyed this article. I don't use the sh word nor do I like the word suck. I think it lacks imagination -- and you can delete this. But I really liked the sentiment you have expressed. You're a free spirit. And good luck to you if you're traveling by bicycle. I hope it all goes well. My brother-in-law is doing the same -- in Germany.

    • LeonJane profile image


      8 years ago from Australia

      I like your style and your thoughts, great idea here! The only sh*t we should give about our writing is that we enjoy doing it and that the writing is legible. (Oh and making sure what we write about doesn't send us into exile like Salman Rushdie - althoug he probably wouldn't take his writings back?)

    • BeccaHubbardWoods profile image

      Becca Hubbard-Woods 

      8 years ago from Outside your window.

      Great hub. I never thought about it like that. I think you'll open a lot of eyes with your advice. :)

    • bonnebartron profile image


      8 years ago from never one place for too long

      So true! I actually just started a "challenge" to help people open up too! Very nice! :)

    • Slainia profile image


      8 years ago from Goderich Ontario

      Oh, boy this is excellent advice. So easy to view it as failure, though, too - if I accept the lack of perfection, that means I dont' want anything less, right? And if I dont' want anything less, I'm not trying hard enough...and so, for me at least, the cycle goes.

      Thank you!

    • katiem2 profile image


      8 years ago from I'm outta here

      Ewww this is fantastic advice, what a light bulb moment. Yes indeed the moment you forget about what you think you must produce, you begin to create and that freedom creates the best material. love Love LOVE your Secret to Writing! :) Rated it all that is good...

    • ilmdamaily profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from A forgotten corner of a dying empire. OK, it's Australia :-)

      @Dobson: Thank you:-) Yes, you're absolutely right - the barriers we erect to our own ability are completely self imposed! I hope this helps people remember they are in ultimate control of their expression:-)

      @Mrpopo: Thank you friend - I appreciate the comment. I think you're right: it took me *forever* to make peace with being "not that great" at many things. The ironic thing is, as soon as I give myself permission to fail, I give myself room to enjoy what I am doing, and the ability naturally flows out from that. It's a neat little "life hack":-)

      @Rafini: Thanks for the comment Raf! No problem it all. You are spot on - it is a blanacing act. We just need to find the sweet spot between doing what we love, and giving ourself enough creative freedom to screw it up - then the magic happens:-)

    • Rafini profile image


      8 years ago from Somewhere I can't get away from

      Perfection is best described as a balancing act - throughout the journey toward perfection many mistakes will be made along the way.

      Thanks for the reminder. :-)

    • mrpopo profile image


      8 years ago from Canada

      This secret is true to many things in life. A well written Hub, nicely done!

    • Dobson profile image


      8 years ago from Virginia

      People can limit themselves by accepting a parlyzing stance that everything has to be just right. Experimentation is the only way to learn. Thanks for the coverage of this topic.


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