On embracing your inner suckiness

Here’s a small part of the talk I gave at Cap University a couple weeks ago. The talk itself was about inspiration, but this little portion is about how sometimes, your work will — to put it technically — sucketh. And that’s okay.

You hear a lot of people say that as a writer, you need to develop a thick skin. You need to be so sure of yourself that you maintain a perfect wall of self-defence even in the face of the most hurtful rejection.

Then you hear that writers must be supremely sensitive and empathetic. You need to notice the exact way the leaves look outside. You need to be able to recreate that stomach ache you got after your first boyfriend dumped you. You need to be able to eavesdrop on a bus stop conversation and feel empathy for those people, who might become your future characters.

If you develop a thick skin, and walk around telling yourself what a great writer you are, you lose some of that sensitivity.

So here’s my alternate advice:

Embrace your inner suckiness.

Sometimes, you’re going to suck. Admit it, embrace it, move on.

I’ve sent my publisher some proposals that make me want to crawl under my desk and hide when I think about how bad they are.


Have I submitted a proposal for a book about ten ways the world might end… for the children’s market? Yes. Have I submitted a manuscript that was 20,000 words too short? Yes. Have I tried something new, like an early reader, and blatantly sucked at it? Yes.

And except for the proposal about the apocalypse, those situations worked out fine in the end. I sucked, I got over it. I fixed it. The books were published. You’re not going to be good at everything, and every idea is not going to work out. I’m sure Margaret Atwood doesn’t publish every piece of writing she does. Everyone sucks sometimes.

So, embrace that. Don’t worry if it’s going to suck, especially on the first draft.

4 thoughts on “On embracing your inner suckiness

  1. Pingback: On sucking. And being okay with that. « Rachelle Delaney: Children’s Author & Educator

  2. April

    Hear, hear! Wise words, Tanya. If we don’t embrace our suckiness it leaves a drooling, slippery trail which is sure to trip us up. I’ve always had a hard time embracing the tough hide/sensitive skin paradox. Both are required, it’s true. Though I think sensitivity is the more important of the two. We sensitive types simply need to be willing to embrace more bodily fluids — in the form of tears. And it’s a good idea to surround yourself with loving people who can embrace YOU afterward. A tough circle of friends rather than a tough hide?…


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