Suck Less. Write More.

Shannon Marshall, Assistant EditorThrough no fault of my own, I became my high school’s official Speech and Debate coach for the last month of school.  We competed in our first and only tournament last weekend and we practiced for less than four weeks prior to competing.  No surprise: many of my students received a fairly solid ass-kicking by competitors from schools who had been practicing heavily since September. Upon sharing my distress about said-situation, one fellow coach admitted that when his team first started competing, their team motto was “Suck Less.”

Now, though I see the brilliance (and hilarity) of this saying for a struggling team….I chose not to bring this motto to the attention of my students. They were already down; they didn’t need another kick.

But “Suck Less” as a mantra stuck with me. I couldn’t forget it. I couldn’t let it go. I giggled involuntarily every time I thought of it.  And I realized that “Suck Less” applies to writing and re-writing perfectly.  Because a daily writing practice is truly all about….sucking less.

Let me explain.  For those who are trying to train themselves to write every day–the “suck less” formula is powerful.  Even the strongest, most talented writers will find that when writing day after day after day, there will be moments of completely crappy writing. Words won’t flow…or they will only to turn up on the page as absolutely mediocre, cliché, or laughably bad.  This is when a writer should smile and say, “No problem. Tomorrow, I’m going to suck less.”

This ideology provides a low bar over which to hurdle, and a low bar gives you permission to write every single day. It’s easy to write when you’re not panicked about lack of inspiration, or perfection flowing out of your pen. It’s easy to write when you know that you have the ability to fix every mistake you make through the fantabulous power of revision.  “Suck less!” and write more!

I used to be one of those revision=death folks.  And truth be told, most of my strongest, most thoughtful, student writers treat revision like the plague.  They do this because usually whatever comes out the first time around is pretty gosh darn good.  It doesn’t suck…but what a writer doesn’t realize when they refuse to revise, is how much better a piece can be when thoughtfully gone over a second, third or fourth time.  When words are tweaked, tightened and clarified, good writing can become legendary.  Writing can ALWAYS suck less. This is the beauty of revision.

Case in point: a few days of thoughtful contemplation have allowed me to see my new mantra with fresh eyes. And, I’ve revised it: Suck Less. Write More. Revise Always.

See? It got better.

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