Beware of Inspiration[al posters]

Listen. I get it.

Sometimes, life can be pretty shitty. Whether it’s your job or the incessant talk about the election or certain countries (which shall remain nameless *ahem*BRITAIN*ahem*) leaving international political unions or if it’s just the constantly looming shadow across our lives that is the NPR pledge drive, sometimes life can just bring you down.

Which is why I totally understand the purpose of inspirational posters and pictures. Like the one with the cat who’s just hanging in there. Or the ones with those beautiful pictures of nature, like a sun setting behind the backdrop of a forest. And there are all of those countless pictures of people doing…squats, I guess? Or maybe they’re lunges? Fitness stuff? Whatever.

And then, there’s this image that I’ve seen floating around Twitter.

There have been a couple different iterations and designs of the above picture, but they all basically break the creative process down into six (6) steps:

  1. This is awesome
  2. This is tricky
  3. This is shit
  4. I am shit
  5. This might be OK
  6. This is awesome

Now in spirit, I don’t necessarily hold any sort of personal vendetta against this. As I wrote up above, life can suck sometimes. Occasionally, it can be nice to have some sort of inspiration to help us trudge through it. So if this picture helps you write? Good. Great. Keep on using it. Keep on trucking, baby. Plow ahead.

The thing is, I just don’t want you to take it too literally. For a couple of reasons.

What you first begin to create isn’t (or shouldn’t) necessarily be awesome.

Somewhere between glasses of whiskey and shooting things with rifles, Ernest Hemingway once said that “the first draft of anything is shit.”

This is accurate. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing, either.

Your first draft should be a mess. It should be a stinky mental diarrhea spewed out from your fingertips all over your laptop screen.

Or in slightly less disgusting terms, think of it like this: the first draft of anything is a battle. It’s you pitted against an enormous legion of hostile soldiers, whose ranks are filled with other commitments and schedules and laziness and sleepiness and that bullshit known as “writer’s block.” And the only way you can defeat them is to put your head down and just plow through and fucking create.

Now, what you end up creating might not be great. It might not be good. Chances are, it’s going to suck. But it should suck. The first draft is just getting all your ideas down. The editing process is when you can start molding all that diarrhea into something more log-shaped (Sorry. I can’t avoid a good fecal analogy.)

Be wary of thinking you’re shit.

You know what’s a huge impediment to writing? Thinking that you suck. Trust me. The thought can become a mental prison of sorts. Because once you cross that line into “I’m nothing but shit” territory, it can be extremely difficult to write your way out of it.

After all, if you think you suck then why continue to write?

Why continue to create?

Or even exist?

Here’s my advice: if you think you’re shit, then it’s time to take care of yourself. Go for a walk. Enjoy a stroll. Have a drink. Buy yourself something nice. Treat yourself. Replenish. Recharge. Pat yourself on the shoulder. Get your head on straight. Do whatever it takes to realize that you don’t suck.

The Creative Process can be a mess…

…depending on your style, that is.

For some people, the creative process can be a very segmented and structured one. Think flow charts. Outlines. Plans. Diagrams.

For others, it can be much more free flowing. Some people just like to sit down and write stream of consciousness and see where that takes them. Sometimes, by throwing down a bunch of words you can pick a few that you look and get inspiration from them.

The point is, you can’t necessarily narrow the creative process down into six steps.

You May Never Get to that Final Awesome Stage

I’m what I like to call an incremental writer. Truth be told though, that’s just my fancy-schmancy way of saying that whatever I’m initially going to write will be lousy, and the only way I’m going to make it even slightly better is through rounds of editing.

So that’s what I do. I write. I edit. And then I edit again. And then edit some more. And more and more and more. Even for flash fiction pieces, I’ll go through multiple rounds of editing. Tweaking. Refining. Adjusting ever so slightly.

And if left to my own devices, I’ll continue that process forever and ever and ever.

But the thing about writing is that…well, eventually you’ll want somebody else to actually read your words.

Editing is great and absolutely essential, but it can become a comfort zone trap. At some point, you’ll have to let go of your writing. Yes, you may not think it’s awesome. You may not think it’s brilliant. But it’s also very likely that no matter how many rounds of editing you go through, you’ll never be 100% satisfied with your work.

Sometimes, you’ll just have to release it into the wild world.

So In Conclusion

You can (and should) be inspired by motivational pictures. But you should never ever feel boxed in by one.

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