As often happens this time in July, I’m in Yellow Springs, Ohio, attending the Antioch Writers’ Workshop.
I’m about to reveal to you one of the worst-kept secrets: if you volunteer to work at a writers’ workshop you can often get in at a reduced price or for free. For me, working as a workfellow at Antioch is like getting to go on a writing retreat with some accomplished writers + getting a physical workout — all for just the cost of my hotel room!
We’ve only been at it for two days now, and I’ve already picked up some good tips. Our keynote speaker last night was John Grogan, author of Marley and Me. Many of the tips that John shared were similar to tips I’ve shared with my own students. He had a new way of looking at some of the old tips, however. For example, I’ve often found that people find themselves blocked by the fear of not writing perfectly enough.
I usually address this a couple of ways. The first is that sometimes writers miss deadlines because they’re working too hard to make something perfect. Good enough on time is good enough. Perfect after the deadline is not good enough. I tell myself this a lot. Not every little piece I write has to be Pulitzer worthy.
Second, sometimes you just have to give yourself permission to write crap. Just get the words down and then go back and edit them later.
John Grogan touched on this concept last night in his keynote talk. He said he sets up a folder on his computer and calls it “scrap.”
“It’s junky,” he said. “It’s just scrap.” Then he works on whatever he needs to write, but he doesn’t care as much. This way, there’s not as much at stake, so the words flow more easily. Crap, scrap, whatever you call it — if you don’t put as much weight on the words, they’re more likely to flow better.
More tips later when I get a chance!