Here’s Permission To Let Your Work Suck

“Remember not to hear praise in a whisper and negative things in a thunder.”Robert J. Wicks

This quotation is about the way you perceive others.

You should extend the advice to your own inner editor. That voice accusing you of being a bad writer, telling you that’s a rubbish word to use, suggesting you might as well not bother.


Don’t listen to your inner editor’s persistent complaints. Write away your doubt. Let your first draft suck. Who cares? Nobody will read it. Why are you trying to assess something that isn’t meant to be the finished article?

You’re not meant to give credit to your first effort. You’re meant to use that sucky first draft to explore further.

Same with the first attempts at making a cake, or driving a car, or learning a language. You have to start from somewhere. That somewhere is beginner, not professional, so why worry how you’re going to fare?

When it comes to writing, every first draft is allowed to suck. Even the most accomplished writers aren’t expected to do magical things on their first draft. A lot of editing goes on before you see the finished piece.

So tap away. Explore. Most of the content may be unusable, but you’ll have initial ideas and maybe the occasional gem. Cut away 80 per cent; 90 even. What’s left is the beginning of something wonderful.

The remainder of your first draft is the scaffold for your second draft.

Your beginnings are never meant to be masterpieces from the outset. University students do themselves a disservice when they pull an all-nighter. One mad dash from start to finish creates a first and only draft. You’re getting ready to submit a beginning. That’s not giving yourself permission to let your work suck, it’s thinking all your output is the same no matter how you produce it. You’ll think you suck in general, and that’s just wrong.

Back to the whispered praise. When something is good, be proud of it. Taking proud ownership of your work is not the same as boasting about it or feeling superior to others.

Stay on the lookout for gold. Don’t downgrade it to gold-plated or, worse still, scrap metal.

And when criticism hits, check constructively. Constructive criticism is meant to bring you valuable feedback. Search comments for advice and assistance, not mocking and disappointment. Criticism is easy to resist, because it feels uncomfortable to be told you’re not perfect.

So why are we so quick to hold our hands up and admit how flawed we are? It’s like we’re our own worst enemies! As a soundbite, it’s easy to be harsh on yourself.

But when those words are coming out of someone else’s mouth, it’s more difficult. We fear it. We defend our actions. We get angry.

All this from hearing praise in a whisper and negative things in a thunder.

Listen to all feedback as part of a conversation. No raised voices and no muttering. And that includes those voices in your head too. Don’t let that pesky editor sap your confidence.

"Sucking at something is the first step to being sorta good at something"

Photo by Amedeo Spagnolo (CC BY-NC 3.0)



I am a writer, who also runs TheUniversityBlog. If that site isn't enough of a clue, I have a love of all things Higher Education. I'm also interested in learning about learning about learning about learning...let's get meta!

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