Stay With Your Crap

This past Saturday I had difficulty writing. I knew what the problem was right away. I have absorbed a lot of craft ideas as a result of writing this blog, which doesn’t sound like a problem. In fact, it sounds like an advantage. After all, I’m reading as a writer and seeing with greater clarity how some of my favorite writers master story. But I have the same 20/20 vision when it comes to my own work. Unfortunately, I’m seeing with great clarity the awesome crap I’m writing. I tried to stay in the room, but I got sick of the sight of my sentences. I was discouraged. Frustrated. I had to take a break. Just needed to back away from the computer before I tossed it over the balcony. I pulled out a craft book for some recuperative reading and stumbled upon this little nugget from Philip Roth in Nail Your Novel, by Rox Morris.

Over the years, you develop a tolerance for your own crudeness. Stay with your crap and it will get better, and come back every day and keep going.

Those two sentences resonated with me. In general, I can intellectualize the whole “writing is a process” until the cows come home, but it doesn’t always soothe the inner critic — she’s too emotional! But this Roth quote gets right to the heart of it, the difficulty of writing. You have to crank out crudeness and not look back.

These words are now a mantra for me. I wrote them on a Post-It note, which I affixed to the screen of my laptop. Yesterday, I stayed with it and kept going. I hope you can do the same.

Photo: Aaron Escobar

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16 Comments on “Stay With Your Crap

  1. Yes! And reminds me of sports equivalents. You can read all the expert tips on how to hit a curve ball, how to make a soft chip shot, how to shoot a 3-pointer, and hopefully internalize ones that work for you. But if your head is processing the at the moment you’re trying to execute, you’re going to suck. It’s called “getting out of your head” and just playing. Or in this case, just writing.

  2. Great post! It captures how I feel about my writing on a regular basis 😉
    Sometimes I feel like what I’m writing is so trite that it makes me angry with myself. It can be easy to quit at that moment and move on to something else. But I think the goal of finishing a piece is a good one to keep in mind. After all, a crap piece can always be made better with revision.

    • I’m pretty sure it’s not actual do-do. I searched Flickr using the word “ugly” and this came up. What can I say? I think it’s just some black paint splatter, but it evoked the idea of crap for me, and apparently for you. Try not think about it too much. Get out of your head. 🙂

      • I’m literally laughing out loud right now! Who would’ve thought that paint spatter could look so disgusting? (The power of context, I suppose…) 🙂

  3. I think it’s kind of like learning a foreign language, which I’ve done twice in very intense settings. You spend all this time reorganizing your brain to think differently and cram it full of new information, and it feels like it’s been in a blender. But if you take a break (meaning not focusing on the “craft” for awhile) your mind slowly starts to gel again, this time with all of the new info. One day your writing is markedly improved. But it’s a process, I think. There has to be breaks in the info cramming.

  4. Sometimes when I want to write and can’t, even if it’s just getting started or even if it’s for work, I turn to 750words.com. Aesthetically, emotionally, whatever it is seems to work. And I can’t recommend enough trying one of their month challenges to write 750 words every day at least once. It’s like taking a vitamin, and if you just push and push and push all the way to the end every time, even if you have nothing to say when you start, it seems there’s always at least one great thing that comes out to hang on to. Plus all the stats are kind of fun.

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