On Writing: Can You Do It Wrong?

Picture of a page of writing

Your motives do not matter. Your method does not matter. What matters is that you are writing.

Are you putting words on the page? Then you are doing it right.

You may not be creating publishable words. You may not be creating amazing words. You may not be creating words you like. But by creating words, you are doing something actual, tangible, verifiable. And that puts you ahead of all the people who aren’t writing.

Someone once said to me at a party, “I would write, but I need to conquer some inner demons first.” And honestly — in my opinion, that’s bullshit unless he was talking about the inner demon of procrastination and not just being a pretentious jackass. Because, come on – who says that kind of thing and takes themself seriously?

Writers just fucking write.

Do you need to send stuff out? Do you need to polish what you’ve produced? Do you need to promote your writing? Yes, and yes, and yes, but all of those things are dependent on having written.

Let me reiterate this, because it’s important. Writing always comes first.

When I teach, we do a lot of writing exercises. And I hear people say, just before they read what they’ve produced, “I’m not sure I did this right.” And then they go on and read me something wonderful. Maybe it’s not exactly what I was envisioning when I came up with the exercise. Maybe they’ve turned the exercise on its head and done something completely different. But that’s okay. The only way they could do the exercise wrong, in my opinion, is to not do it.

I have seen stories workshopped that were…sometimes difficult to say much about. Some are seared on my memory; others kept me up at night trying to figure out what to say. Some were politically a bit problematic. But you know what? At least they got written.

If you are writing, you are being a writer. If you keep at it — and think about writing and getting better — you will get better. There are things you can do that will help you get better faster, but all of them depend on…well, you should know what I’m going to say here by now….writing.

If it’s fear of getting it wrong that’s stopping you, then knock it off. Here’s the reassurance you need. You cannot do it wrong.

Now go write some words.

Enjoy this writing advice and want more content like it? Check out the classes Cat gives via the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers, which offers both on-demand and live online writing classes for fantasy and science fiction writers from Cat and other authors, including Ann Leckie, Seanan McGuire, Fran Wilde and other talents! All classes include three free slots.

Prefer to opt for weekly interaction, advice, opportunities to ask questions, and access to the Chez Rambo Discord community and critique group? Check out Cat’s Patreon. Or sample her writing here.

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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and the magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She is currently working on Exiles of Tabat, the third book of the Tabat Quartet. A new story collection, Neither Here Nor There, appears from Hydra House this fall.
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