Bad Word Permission Slip
So, I don’t know if you’ve noticed this about me yet… but I kinda love books; like a lot!
Story has impacted my life in profound ways. I have been moved deeply by the words of my favorite authors. Their stories feel like a mix between magic and a well-polished work of art.
So naturally, when I decided that I wanted to be an author, I too wanted to create my own mystical masterpiece. I envisioned writing a story that could be compared to the Sistine Chapel in terms of beauty and inspiration. I imagined people reading my book and weeping tears of overwhelming joy, all while being left with a sense that they had been altered for all eternity in some intense and meaningful way…
Unfortunately for me, I am no Michelangelo. When I began writing my manuscript, it all felt like absolute rubbish! Nothing that I typed seemed even remotely close to the epic saga I had in my mind. Instead, my words looked childish on the page, and my dialogue literally made my stomach upset. Each and every scene made me cringe as what I was describing came nowhere close to the majestic image I was envisioning.
And this doesn’t just happen with my novel; it happens with everything! It happens with my Instagram posts, my short story submissions, and my blog posts. It almost feels physically painful to write at times.
But alas, here I am doing it anyways. And here's why. Because the Sistine Chapel was not the first thing that Michelangelo ever painted. I’m willing to bet that there was once a time when even the great artist himself painted poorly. In fact, did you know that he didn’t even consider painting as his main craft? He considered himself a sculptor. I wonder how many times he had to paint over things. I wonder how often he stepped back and looked at his work and thought, this is not quite right. He may have been arguably the best artist of all time, but he was still a human.
Can you imagine what would have happened if he quit? What if he had never picked up another paintbrush or chisel because his first attempts at art weren’t perfect? There would be no statue of David. There would be no Sistine Chapel. We would have missed out on some of the most magnificent works of art known to man.
You see, we all have to start somewhere. No matter what our desired field of expertise, we all have to start with a blank canvas or a giant slab of marble. It’s intimidating to stare at an empty page or a dull rock. How are we to take these things and make them beautiful? At first, it will probably look like a choppy, jagged mess. But the more we chisel away at it, the more clear it becomes.
Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to say bad words, but today I am here to give you permission to write them! Sometimes we can get so caught up in the fear of creating something imperfect that it paralyzes our creativity.
I recently heard about an experiment done with a class of students studying ceramics. Half of them were told that they would be graded on the quality of their work, while the other half were told they would be graded on the quantity of their work. Can you guess what happened?
The students who focused on making as many pieces of pottery as possible made better and more interesting pieces. The more pieces they made, the more adept they got at it, and the more variety presented itself. While the students focusing on making just one perfect piece got stuck because they were too afraid to take chances.
So please, do yourself a favor and just write the words! Write awful words. Write horrible words. In fact, the harder you cringe, the better!
JUST WRITE THE DANG WORDS!
Because who knows where they are going to lead you? Who knows what story is waiting to be revealed and what masterpiece is hidden in the stone?
That’s one joy of writing; once the words are out there, you can go back and use the tools you’ve acquired to hone your craft. Once you write the first draft, now you can go back and start to bring forth the true shape of the piece, slowly discovering the authentic heart of what it was meant to be.
Again and again, you will polish it until it is ready to receive its final coat. And then, who knows, once the final edit has been completed, you might just step back to see a masterpiece standing before you.
Mind you, it may be flawed, like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or it may be that not everyone is able to appreciate it. For instance, I don’t understand the appeal of the Mona Lisa, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful.
However, you will never know what is possible if you don’t allow yourself the freedom to get the words out. So go fill up those pages, even if the words must be bad, to begin with!
PS. For the purpose of this blog, I have included my first draft below so that you can see my words at their worst. Is this final draft perfect? Nope! But it’s definitely more polished and reflects the article's purpose more clearly. So I call that a win!
FIRST DRAFT (Zero Edits)
Permission Slip to Write Bad Words
I love books, like a lot. Stories have played such a large role in helping me to make sense of real life. I have been moved deeply by the words written on the pages by some of my favorite authors. These stories feel like masterpieces. Well polished works of art. This crazy ability to move me in deep and meaningful ways. So naturally, when I decided that I wanted to be an author, I too wanted a story that could be compared to the sistene chapter in terms of beauty and perfection.
Unfortunately, I am no Michelangelo. When I began my manuscript nothing that I typed seemed even remotiely close to the tale I had in my mind. My words looked childish on the page, my dialogue was cringey, and I couldn’t find a way to paint the perfect picture of the scenary as I saw it in my mind. Even as I write this blog, my words are clunky, repetitive, and informal. It feels almost painful to write. But I am writing them anyways. You know why? Because the sistene chapel was not the first thing that Michelangelo ever painted. There had to be a time, where even Michelangelo painted poorly.
So what would have happened if he quite. If he never picked up another paint brush or a chisel because his first piece of art was trash? I’ll tell you what! No statue of David, no sistene chapel, none of some of the most beautiful pieces of art we have left today.
Here’s the thing, we all have to start somewhere, we all have to start with a giant slab of marble. At first it might look a little like a choppy, jagged, mess. But the more we chisel away at it, the more beautiful it becomes.
I was always told I wasn’t allow to say bad words, but we have become so afraid of writing the imperfect that it freezes us in our steps. Well here is your permission to write bad words. Write awful words. Horrible words. The harder you cringe when you read them back, the better!
JUST. WRITE. THE. DANG. WORDS!
And then you know what, now you have something to go back and decorate. To use the tools you own to hone the craft. To bring out the shape of the piece. To get to the heart of what it was meant to become. You’ll continue to chip away, then as you get closer, you will polish it, then finally give it one last final coat. And who knows when you step back, perhaps you will have a master piece standing before you. But you will never know if you don’t allow yourself the freedom to get the words out on the page.
For the purpose of this blog I have included my first two edits, so you can see my words at their worst. And the process of how I hone them in. Find the heart of the story and then do my best to bring that forth in the best way that I know how.