Monday, September 24, 2012

Why I love to suck

Saturday marked the second stop on the Crazy 8s Author Tour in Cannon Beach, Oregon. The next time I think it's wise to commit to two consecutive weekends of book tour driving at cities 400 miles apart, will someone please punch me in the crotch?

Now that we've got that out of the way, I'll say I've very much enjoyed being part of this group tour. As the lone romance author in a group of 28 writers ranging from poets to award-winning literary novelists, I sometimes feel like the chimpanzee crashing a party of swans.

This was apparent Saturday when two authors preceding me devoted their five minutes to discussing cancer, child abuse, and historical massacres. I kicked off my five minutes by squealing – literally squealing – about being introduced by Barbara Roberts, Oregon's first and only female governor and my longtime political idol. Then I launched into my five minute talk dispelling myths about the romance genre, a speech I begin by calling audience members perverts, sexual deviants, and lonely spinsters living in a fantasy world.

I capped it all off by handing my penis pen to a respected poet and asking him to sign a copy of his latest book.

But speaking of sucking (we were, weren't we?) I listened raptly to every word my fellow authors uttered during their five-minute talks. In her talk about the challenges of the writing process, author Ruth Tenzer Feldman said something so wonderful I snatched my penis pen back from the poet and scribbled the quote on the back of my own speech:

"Some of the words are no better than guano, but they serve to enrich the words that come after."

She was discussing the importance of continuing to write, even when it's rough going or the words flow slower than frozen KY Jelly. It's one of the toughest things for new writers to wrap their brains around. Why on earth would you keep writing when you know for certain you're producing absolute drivel?

I love Ruth's take on it – the notion that the crap fertilizes whatever crops you're planting after that. Though I love poop humor as much as the next person, I tend to think of my own lousy writing more like a skeleton. It's not too pretty to look at on its own, but it needs to be there so I can start adding layers of guts and skin and hair and sex organs.

I've seen other authors describe this as, "embracing your suckage" or "giving yourself permission to suck." Whatever you call it, it's an important part of the process whether you're a poet or a governor or a romance author prone to inappropriate public behavior.

How do you allow yourself to suck, either as a writer or in another professional capacity? Please share!

And if you're in Oregon, please mark your calendar for Friday, September 28 at 6:30 when the Crazy 8s Author Tour will make its way to Paulina Springs Books in Redmond.


Linda G. said...

Ha! Great minds DO think alike. I blogged about polishing turds today. *grin*

Ricky Bush said...

I wouldn't touch this with a ten foot penis pen.

Skye said...

When I write for work (technical writing, usually), I just keep throwing words at the page to begin with, knowing that I'll have to edit it anyway. It's easy to allow myself to suck at work.

But I've written a first draft of my first novel and am having difficulties embracing the suckage. So I will keep all the above in mind and remind myself it's okay that there lots of suck in it and that those words will provide fertilizer for my mind and the next version of the novel. Thank you for telling us its okay to suck. :)

Mary said...

LOL--what did the poet think of your penis pen?

Writing drivel is better than writing nothing at all. Spit and polish, baybee!

Raley Blue said...

I ADORE the penis pen. I sincerely hope you signed the cat pee book and it's companion with it. I'm asking Santa Claus for one.

As for sucking, well... I think sucking is just part of life. Embrace it. I must say though that I hate, hate, HATE trying to rewrite a really crappy draft. It's seriously akin to constipation. Dear God, I just need it to flow!! You know? ;)

Rich Amooi said...

Thanks for this. We all go through those times of feeling unmotivated and I'm in the middle of one of the moments right now! I need to get going and write some drivel STAT! Here I go!