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'It's OK to Be Terrible' and Other Affirmations for the Frustrated Writer

by Josh O'Dell  |  
December 15, 2016
  |  2,024 views

As a writer, I am a mess.

I'm the sad, shriveled man pulling his hair out to find the right word. I'm the brow-furrower staring down the blinking cursor and the blank page. And that internal voice that whispers incantations like "failure" and "doofus"! Gives me the heebie-jeebies just thinking about it.

When I was young, the difficulty of writing got me down. After all, you hear romantic stories in writing workshops about prose flowing freely from the scribe's hand as if possessed by the ghost of Faulkner himself. People throw out writerisms like "It flowed out of me" and "I couldn't keep up with the words." And there I was, comparing writing to a wrestling cage match more so than a spiritual journey.

Until I hit upon this quote by the novelist Thomas Mann: "A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people."

I love that quote because it reinforces what I'd thought all along but was afraid to admit: Writing is hard to do.


The first time I read it, it was like getting permission to flounder. Who says a little struggle has to be bad?

I even take it a step further: When writing is hard, that means you're doing it right. It means you're thoughtful, you're thinking several steps ahead, you're considering every point of view, and taking into account the impact of a single word.

It goes for writing a novel and it goes for writing marketing copy: This stuff isn't supposed to be easy, but that doesn't mean it has to be painful. Here are a few things I do to power through. Call it a list of struggling-writer affirmations.


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Josh O'Dell is an associate creative director at Centerline Digital in Raleigh, NC. When he's not finding unique ways to tell brands' stories, he likes getting manicures from his daughters and making novel ice cream flavors (Hello, donut chocolate crunch).

LinkedIn: Joshua O'Dell

Twitter: @THEoriginalJLO

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  • by Chris Goswami Fri Dec 16, 2016 via web

    Some of the best, most encouraging advice I have ever come across! Great job .......... and VERY well written :-)

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