Yes, you suck — now get over it
This is going to feel like I’m tearing a Bandaid off you.
Will you trust me that I love, respect, and appreciate you and have nothing but your best interest at heart?
Good. Now listen up.
I’ve mentored dozens of writing students. One of the most common things they express at the beginning is a strange mix of open dread and secret hope — dread that I’m going to think their work sucks, and hope that I’m going to love it and fawn over them and tell them I’ve discovered the next literary genius.
For example, after asking my latest student why she wanted to become a good writer, she gave a great response and then finished by adding, “So I suppose the emotional turmoil of having you tear my papers to shreds just might be worth it.”
That “emotion turmoil” is exactly what I’m talking about — that ever-so-vulnerable hope that your amateur work might be good, overshadowed by the dread that it’s not nearly as good as you hope.
There’s nothing wrong with having those emotions — it’s perfectly natural. And I have the highest respect for anyone willing to submit themselves to that agony.
But here’s the problem: Those emotions are what keep people from trying anything in the first place.
I know you’re thinking it’s fear. But it’s not. It’s pride. The root of all pride is deep-seated insecurity.
It’s pride, plain and simple, that keeps people from sticking their necks out and trying new things.
And I say that in the spirit of compassion, not condemnation. Trust me, I know that feeling.
But I also know this: I’ve been writing a minimum of 1,000 words per day for over ten years straight, and I can tell you unequivocally that my work sucked for the first few years. And compared to what I’ll create ten years from now, my work still sucks.
So allow me to liberate you from those crippling feelings, and give you permission to create with the unrestrained joy of an innocent child, with a loving smack upside your head:
- Yes, your writing is going to suck for a while. Now get over it and write. Because that’s the only way to become a great writer.
- Yes, your first few business ideas are going to suck. Now get over it and launch a business. Because that’s the only way to become a successful entrepreneur.
- Yes, your first attempts to create art are going to suck. Now get over it and pick up the paintbrush. Because that’s the only way to become a great artist.
- Yes, your first child is going to get the brunt of your sucky parenting. Now get over it and have a child. Because that’s the only way to become a great parent.
- Yes, your first presentations as a salesman are going to suck. Now get over it and give some presentations. Because that’s the only way to become a great salesman.
Release your pride that gives you the delusion that somehow you’re going to be an immediate prodigy and you won’t have to slog through the trenches of beginners, that you can somehow escape embarrassment and defeat.
Daniel J. Boorstin said wisely,
“We suffer primarily not from our vices or our weaknesses, but from our illusions. We are haunted, not by reality, but by those images we have put in their place.”
With love, I’m telling you that you’re delusional to think your first attempts at anything are going to be even remotely good.
So get over it and fall on your face. And come up giggling. And fall down again. And keep coming up with a grin on your face until you stop falling.
Psychologist Frank Barron pointed out that,
“The biography of the inventive genius commonly records a lifetime of original thinking, though only a few ideas survive and are remembered to fame. Voluminous productivity is the rule and not the exception among the individuals who have made some noteworthy contribution.”
In other words, polished genius emerges from tons of clumsy, idiotic work.
Listen: The world desperately needs your best work. But your best work cannot materialize until you’re willing to get over your pride and do a lot of crappy work.
I know you have genius inside you. But your genius cannot be revealed until you’re willing to look like a fool.
You are amazing. And your first attempts to amaze the world are going to suck. Now get over it and do the work.