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Jun 09

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Nobody Tells This To Beginners

By Ira Glass

I started Write-A-Holic because I wanted to create a space in which people who were passionate about writing could meet and share their work without the fear of being rejected by faceless, often merciless editors. Perhaps naively, I hoped that this website could become a stress-free environment in which nobody would judge our work,  and I was completely unprepared when I discovered that, even here, we couldn’t escape “The Gap.”

I was rejoicing about the amount of pageviews, positive feedback and writing samples that Write-A-Holic had received, when a friend destroyed my enthusiasm with one sentence: “I’m not sure that this is a good idea,” he said. He was afraid that our readers would start sending us “crappy” writing, that I would have to spend so much time editing work that I would not be able to write my own, and that the quality of the entire project would decline, together with the amount of users we attracted. Pretty encouraging scenario, huh?

Well, I wasn’t happy, of course. I started questioning my writing, and everyone else’s too. I read over all the content we had published multiple times to make sure that there weren’t any typos, or grammatical mistakes, or anything that could irk our readers and lead them to never come back.

But the pageviews soared, and new users continue coming to our site every day. (THANK YOU GUYS!) This tells me that, even though there is surely still a big “gap” between what we would like to write and what actually ends up filling the pages of this website, readers are more forgiving of our imperfections than we could have ever hoped.

Perhaps the reason this quote resonates with writers so much is that we are all, by nature, perfectionists. We love what we do and we want to be able to do it to the best of our abilities. However, I am starting to think that, rather than trying to write a nobel prize winning novel, we should concentrate on cultivating forgiveness.

The more we learn to let the words flow without feeling pressured to create a flawless work from the get-go, the more our creativity will be free to express itself on the page.  The important thing, therefore, is not to sit down in front of the computer, waiting for that first, memorable sentence to magically materialize itself on the screen.  The trick is to sit down and write, write, write. Even when you think it’s “crap.”

The reason? Avoiding the blank page will not help you to become a better writer and, most importantly, rereading over your work might surprise you. In time, you might actually come to realize that some of that “crap” wasn’t that bad after all…

 


Further reading:

  • The New Kings of Nonfiction: This book, edited by Ira Glass, includes a selection of masters of nonfiction ranging from David Foster Wallace to Dan Savage to Malcom Gladwell… makes for exciting summer reading!
  • Radio: An Illustrated Guide: Also a must, Ira Glass’s take on how to conduct a radio program, based on his experience in hosting and producing This American Life.
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Permanent link to this article: http://www.write-a-holic.com/nobody-tells-this-to-beginners/

2 comments

5 pings

  1. shan lyons

    “Have ideas. Allow them to suck. Try again.” -Nick Strada, brilliant copywriter

    1. Valentina Nesci

      Ah, great quote! And so appropriate! Thanks for sharing!

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