first drafts aren't writing

Audience Member: What do you do when you have writer’s block? Do you have any tips for that?

Michael V. Smith: You just suck it up. Somebody told me that they didn’t believe in writer’s block, and I really like to say I don’t believe in writer’s block. “Writer’s block” just means you don’t want to write something shitty... You can always write crap. Writer’s block is, I think, simply not giving yourself permission to write crap. My mother always said “It doesn’t have to be perfect, just done”... and I am very fond of that advice. You have to have permission to play. And playing means you get your hands dirty. And if you get your hands dirty, it’s because you’re mucking around in shit. So you have to give yourself permission to muck around in shit...

First drafts [aren’t] writing. That’s not writing. Writing is not creating a first draft. Writing a first draft is being an amateur. Revising the first draft is being a professional...

Really, it’s all about permission... I get to write crap. I can just make up crap right here. “Look here’s some crap. Look, I made it up.” Ok, what are we going to do with it? How are we going to make it better? So it’s not so precious, that’s the thing. It only gets precious with time and effort. But it doesn’t come out as precious. You know, a diamond isn’t made in a day. It takes eons. The earth has spent a long time investing in that carbon.

- Michael V. Smith, in the Q+A after a reading as part of the Robson Reading Series. You can watch the whole reading and Q+A here.

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