Great Writers Start Ugly

Great Writers Start

This is Day 7 in the Great Writers series. Join in on Facebook and Twitter for added bonuses.

Every product you create, every book you write, every project you undertake, there is one crucial action you must remember:

Make it ugly first.

Before it can be beautiful — before it can look like it does in your head — it will first have to be thrown-together and messy. Just like anything at the beginning.

Leonardo Da Vinci once said, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” So every time you endeavor to create, you will have a choice:

You can first make it ugly, or not make it at all. There is nothing else.

All creation comes from chaos. All works of art begin as splotches of paint on a canvas. It’s never beautiful at the outset. Before your work can reach its potential, it will first have to be bad.

The only way to start

A friend told me the other day that he feels like he has three books in him. “Which one should I write first?” he asked.

“The worst one,” I replied. The same is true for whatever you’re thinking about starting. Make the one that has the least chance of succeeding, because you will learn something from it. And you will get better. Everything we do, after all, is practice for the next thing.

When we choose to start ugly, we do the following:

  1. We actually create something (instead of continuing to dream about it).
  2. We grow. We learn what works and what doesn’t.
  3. We get the chance to make it better.

This is the hardest part of creating anything, but also the most important: starting. Without it, there is no project. Of course, you shouldn’t leave it at ugly, but you have to start there. It’s where we all begin.

The challenge

Make something ugly. And leave it ugly (temporarily). Be okay with it. Embrace the splotches and streaks for what they are: evidence that you’ve started.

Then share it with a few people you trust (feel free to use the comments here, if you like) and look for feedback. Find stuff you can improve and slowly move it towards beautiful.

Bonus content: Not sure where to start? This article may help: How to Structure Any Piece of Writing.

What’s one way in which you can start ugly today? I’ll give a free copy of The War of Art to one random winner who leaves a comment on today’s post.

You’re half-way done! How’s it going? If you’re blogging through the series, be sure to link up with the rest of the group.

297 thoughts on “Great Writers Start Ugly

  1. I think that for the first time I understand that I am going to be unhappy with my first drat. It’s not going to have the structure I want, the smoothness, the beauty. It’s going to be a raw, ugly mess of a thing that I probably started in the middle, went back and did a half intro, took too long to get to the end. In short, it’s a mess.

    But it’s out of my head. I do too much editing in my head, trying to make it the best before it leaves my pen or get’s on a screen. I bury the creativity under layers of “this should be better this way”… and nothing ever comes out because I can see it’s flaws.

    Birth it ugly, worry about the fixings later. Now it’s time to let the unvarnished creativity stare me in the face so I can make it great… after I’ve gotten it out, after I have the raw materials to work with.

  2. I like to start ugly by free writing what’s on my heart. Once it is all over, I let it sit for a while. Days later, I search through all the dirt for the diamond  that somehow forms within the pressure of it all. This allows me a passionate write and pulls more emotion from the readers.

  3. I like to start ugly by free writing what’s on my heart. Once it is all over, I let it sit for a while. Days later, I search through all the dirt for the diamond  that somehow forms within the pressure of it all. This allows me a passionate write and pulls more emotion from the readers.

  4. So I did it!  My writing is far from perfect and I care too much about what others think so I don’t write much even though I have a blog. The challenges have been awesome at hitting me where I need to work. I wrote a blog post that scared me to write. I started with ugly, tweaked and shipped. Then I wanted to throw up. Putting the depths of myself out there for all to see is not my area of comfort. Thank you for investing in us and challenging us to write what we are scared to write, practice in public, and start with ugly. It’s been a great encouragement!

  5. Jeff, I can totally sympathize with your friend.  I’ve got 2 book ideas floating around in my head.  One reflects my primary passion, the one I mentioned before that I’ve filled our bookshelves with books on.  The other reflects an interest that’s come to me recently.  I like your advice.  I’ll work on the second book first because quite frankly, I don’t think it’s as good as the first one.  Although I like the subject, I don’t feel the gung-ho passion that I do for the first one.  So I’ll get the second one out of my system and, like you say, practice writing with it.

    Annie, I loved what you said about ???   to fill an empty space.  For me, the ellipsis is my best friend.  Whenever I come to a blank spot, I just put those handy dots in to show that there’s a blank space….and maybe some brackets [how did the character get there?  flesh this out].

    BTW, what part of the UK are you in?  We’re getting to fly off and visit our former home of York in a few days.  I am so looking forward to it!

    1. Hi Lori,
      I’m from Peterborough, Cambridgeshire. We also lived in the States several years ago (NY/NJ)

      York is so lovely, I hope you have a great visit. It’s the kind of city I’d love to live in – so inspiring and beautiful. 

      All the best with your book ideas,  Annie 

  6. How do you guys start a post? I email myself ideas and notes through the day. Looks like this:

    “believing expiration date. We think it’s bad so we don’t go any frther. just toss it out. maybe it’s time to start looking into for ourselves. maybe just b/c something tells us it’s bad doesn’t really make it true. what do you need to re-explore?”

  7. Good morning from Alaska! I’m a college composition teacher and I always tell my students: “I can’t do much with a blank piece of paper. Put something on it and we can make it pretty later.” So now I’m going to go write something I can make pretty later. 🙂

  8. I experienced this with the novel that I’m writing now. The first couple of chapters were really bad and I’ve already done several revisions with more to come. 

    As I’ve been writing more and more chapters the characters and the plot are coming together more. Everything is coming together in ways that I never imagined and after I complete the first draft of the book I will be able to go back to the early chapters and make significant improvements because I know the characters so much better now.

    Also, I couldn’t agree more that starting is the hardest part.

  9. “Ugly” is one of the hardest things for me. Even during undergrad when I was working on my thesis, I had to show it to my thesis advisor periodically and I’d always include the disclaimer, “This draft is gross.” Of course, the word “draft” enlightened her to the fact that it wouldn’t be perfect yet still I wasn’t ok with the mess. I grew up in a house where my parents didn’t care about grades. They just wanted to know if it was our best work. Gross thesis drafts, ugly pieces of writing are not my best work therefore I should feel like I should keep them to myself until they are my best work.

  10. I could have umpteen novels under my belt if I’d known this from the start. Sometime in the last year I learned that perfection rarely comes at the first writing. I now  have one and a half novels at the point where I can be proud of them. All because of Steven Pressfield. Now I do my daily writing  with the  understanding that I type out the dream in my head and can come back and polish it.  It works it works it works.  Not saying this cause I want the book, I already have it and the DVD….thanks Jeff…you are a remarkable man.  And I love your book:  “You are a writer. ” I said the words I am a writer out loud to someone last month, someone I respect.  It felt wonderful!!!!

  11. I have a real problem writing as an outside narration in a story (rather than just inside one character’s head) So I’m trying to write a short story from an outside perspective (with more than one character as they can tell the other person what they’re thinking) hopefully giving it a go and getting some feedback will mean next time it’s better. 

  12. My blog is set up to help people start doing something they love to do.  It doesn’t have to be art or writing-whatever it is they love.
    The thing I say the most is
    You can be perfectionist or you can do something you love to do.  Choose one because you can’t do both!
    What you wrote here today is soooo true.
    Kel Wilson

  13. Hey Jeff, 

    Starting is one of the hardest things to do.  And then the second hardest thing is actually keeping on keeping on in spite of the mistakes, glitches, etc. rather than simply starting over.

    You have “affected” for today man.  Now let me get out of here and start working.

  14. Thank you for the calming advice!  I started a blog in March, went live in April, and have been changing and tweaking, loving then not-so-much-loving it ever since.  Ugly is the new pretty-in-progress.  🙂

  15. Perfectly timed assignment! I just yesterday finished polishing, polishing, polishing my new novel and sent it out to my beta readers. I woke up this morning feeling a huge sense of accomplishment, but also a sense of: now what? I’ve been pushing myself so hard to finish that book that I feel restless without it sitting on my shoulders today. I don’t want to lose momentum, but I also have nothing in those revision-stages to tackle today. So instead I’m creating something new! A new short story, or a new novel beginning, I’m not sure yet. But I’m free-writing and letting it be ugly and I’ll worry about cleaning it up and deciding what it is later. Today, I’ll just write!

  16. This is great advice but something I have to re-remind myself of every time I start a project.  I just finished a pretty ugly draft of an article I have to turn in this week and sent it to my critique group for feedback as well as (gasp!) my editor, because I’m concerned that the structure she asked for isn’t working with the material I found after doing the research.

    Another bonus to writing ugly is that I find cleaning up one paragraph before I jump into the writing again is a great way to get back into the groove when I have to stop and start.  I’m a work at home mom with a small toddler, so I stop and start A LOT.

  17. Great post and challenge, Jeff. I think most of us can identify with the awareness that when we begin, our work is not all it could be. And it’s helpful to remember that great writers “start ugly.” Ernest Hemingway rewrote the final page of A Farewell to Arms 39 times. Imagine what it was like when he started!!

  18. Starting ugly:  In order to have order there first must be chaos.  You are totally correct, Jeff about saying that when you start writing and sharing you will automatically obtain a lot of insight right away what more effective ways are conveying your message.  I went to college in my late 30’s and this was an eye opener to go through writing classes.  That was a pivotal point in my writing journey. 

  19. Oh man, Jeff–show off my ugly?  Really?  Well, I posted a very ugly piece on my blog, then asked all my tweeps and followers to critique it.  My inner critic is throwing a massive hissy fit.  I tend to edit as I write, so it is a good lesson, but wow, it smarts!

  20. This is probably the hardest challenge for me since “declare”! The timing couldn’t be more perfect though – I have been wasting the morning away with distractions simply because I am resisting writing something ugly. I have no idea how to begin my current project (children’s picture book). I have a character idea for the protagonist, but that’s it. Not sure how to move forward as I’ve never written one of these before. Keep telling myself I should have a plot figured out before I begin writing. Am I wrong?? So I’m trying to ‘educate’ myself before I actually start writing, but I sense that’s simply another distraction. Help! 

  21. I love writing ugly. I teach this to my developmental writing students, and I love how their faces light up when they realize they don’t have to get it 100% perfect the first time.

  22. I am in tears as I read today’s post. I start, and then I get stuck, thrown off course by the winds of distraction, discouragement and lack of discipline. Even last week, when this series began, I was on a mother/daughter vacation with my young adult daughter. I read each days post, but was unable to apply it because of the lack of predictability, the right time and place, and the call of all the other things I “should” be doing. Now I am home, catching up with things and getting ready for another trip next week to a speakers conference. I love to speak and teach, but to write those same messages is grueling. To put the same messages I speak about into writing is so difficult. Even while the message is still in my head, I am trying to polish it from ugly to perfect. Ugh! I am trying. I have started three blogs. I make headway, then I find myself stalled…crippled to move forward because of doubt, fear and incessant interruptions. So here is my first honest comment, my true confession, the ugly truth but still even this “polished.” Thank you for your posts, your example and your encouragement. 

  23. I’ve been getting up at or before 5:00 a.m. for the last couple weeks to prep for this…That’s UGLY. My writing, well, it’s not fair to the word ugly to call it ugly. But I’m still here and still writing…

  24. So funny, because I saw a quote on Amy Lynn Andrews blog by Reid Hoffman “If you are not embarrassed by the first version… you’ve launched too late.”  My husband told me it was actually Steve Jobs who said it.  But anyway…there seems to be a theme going today!  It also makes me think of The Nester “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.”  

    Amen and Amen! 

  25. Butterflies are not born that way… my stories just start ugly. Hopefully at a point they will become butterflies, but until then they are ugly. 
    I have a lot of drafts going on right now, let aside for a moment, but recently I’ve been transforming some of them into something more. If you have the time and pleasure, here is one of my ugly stories, draft as I imagined it each day with a new coming word. Any feedback will be highly appreciated.

  26. OK. Here it is…
    Structuring a New Piece of Writing
    Just woke up. Looking outside the window into the garden. Small plants and large trees, all shake in the wind. Where does the wind come from and one minute is a soft breeze and the next shakes the branches of the oak and the maple and the birch manically as if going to uproot them? The new frail birch could break from moment to moment!  Poor little birch!
    Poor liitle me! I too, like my trees, stand against the winds! Light breezes and strong winds! Light breezes are cool and refreshing. Just like these challenges, they stir my heart and my mind. Definitely they steer my hand!  Lately however, lots of stong winds have being coming at me! They make me feel frail and diffenseless, vulnerable! Don’t want my flowers scatterd in the air. Don’t want my branches broken down. Don’t want to be unearthed, uprooted. I am in pain and I strungle to stand against this force that comes at me, but I am not able to stop it either. A voice from deep down the earth comes to my ears…or is it the heavens whispering through my leaves?
            “Don’t stand rigid against the winds! Let them blow their horn! You dance to it! Sway   back and forth and let the wind pass trhough your branches and your leaves.”
    It works! I am surviving the stong wind as long as my roots are deep, as long as my branches reach high!
    My life, our lives are always blown by soft breezes and strong winds. …Health problems, family and other relationship problems, finencial problems, spiritual problems….We often feel winds come at us, strong enough  to break us. In a perfecly clear sunny day, where do those winds come from and why? I am sure there is an answer for the phenomenon of winds…just don’t know it…But how about the winds in our life? Those trubling winds, where do they come from and why?  Maybe they are the result of our behaviour, or lack of the right actions… maybe from our reactions to situations and people….Maybe they are tests we  need to pass… maybe they are actually there to break us…who knows? I don’t!  But what I know is that they are our trainers helping us build muscle…spiritual muscle…That is life! Soft breezes and strong winds are parts of it and they cannot always be avoided.
    Lets enjoy the soft breezes! Lets sway and dance to strong winds! That way life gets easier! Breezes and winds become our friends, playmates, teachers, trainers!  Dance with the wind!

      1. Jamie, thank you for replying. It meant a lot that you read what I wrote and even “criticized” it.
        I took “ugly” to mean the first stream of concious or uncounscius writing that comes from the heart to the page without thinking or judging. Fortunately  or unfortunately this is how I have written my whole book. I usually work on it later to revise and expand…definitely correct typing errors and grammar.  No  matter wha,t I am learning!
        My best to you!

  27. Well today I finally started an idea that I’ve had rolling around for a while about how singleness can give us perspective on Jesus as the Bridegroom waiting for His bride. I’m calling it Longing For a Wedding.   It’s really ugly right now but today it went from a title to a few pages so it’s a start. Eeek!

  28. I’m starting that non fiction book I’ve had in my head now for about a year.  I wrote out one of those brainstorm bubble charts of it last night.  (Do you guys know what I’m talking about?  Maybe it’s called a spider chart…how embarrassing that I don’t know the proper term! LoL) And I posted some “raw” material of it today.  Uneditted.  To coincide with today’s challenge. 
    Oh man.  I just told people I want to write a book!

    P.S.  Brilliant call on the getting up 2 hours early.  I think I posted this else where, but it is making all the difference in the world.  


  29. When I was struggling to begin putting my writings down for my first self-published book, one of my mentors once told me, “God cannot bless it unless you give Him something to bless.” Then he encouraged me to just write and with the beauty of cut/paste I could move stuff around, rewrite, delete, add, etc. When I stopped worrying about the structure being perfect, I was free to write. And that is what I did.

  30. I recently bit the bullet and showed the first 12k words of my fantasy novel to my best friend even though I knew that most of it was terrible and far from polished and was scared to hear what she would say. But I learned something about myself as a writer that ended up helping immeasurably. You see, my writing has always been very concise, which I attribute to my start as a journalist (I wrote for a newspaper for four years). But in addition to keeping things short and sweet, the majority of what I had written was dialogue, which is what I hear in my head when I am writing. I realized that it was because after I studied journalism I studied screenwriting and then acting (which had me memorizing several scripts). No wonder so much of what I was putting on the page was dialogue, that’s roughly all a script is! So now my challenge is to study fiction writing, and to envision the scenes instead of just “hearing” them, and to use that to become a better ficiton writer 🙂 

  31. I struggled with performance anxiety in the 90s when I was trying to write fiction (had never written it before; was a tech writer for 21+ years).  I over-analyzed just about EVERYTHING and was satisfied with nothing. As a result, I never finished a novel I started. In the intervening years, I’ve come to realize that, as a famous writer (Hemingway?) is supposed to have said, “The first draft is always sh*t.” That’s what editing is for. Although I haven’t picked up that novel again (yet), I’m a lot easier on myself, and writing has become a lot more fun as a result. 

  32. Anne Lamotte has a chapter in her book on writing titled “Shitty First Drafts.” It’s the biggest help I’ve received as a writer. I used to craft each sentence from scratch, unable to put anything down that wasn’t perfect. The problem was that I never put anything down. Now, when I start, I just start. I sometimes delete the whole thing and write it over and sometimes I get lucky and a first draft only needs a little editing, but either way, I begin by just writing.

  33. Today, I am going to write up my keynote for my speaking event next month. I have a feeling it is going to be hot mess ugly. That excites me. 

    Jeff, if I win the book, please pass select another. I have the book and would like to pay it forward.

  34. I am doing this challenge too and you really have helped me do some deep thinking about why I write and for what reason.

  35. This is so encouraging because I do struggle with trying to make it perfect, and not shipping. I’m getting more comfortable with the process of at least getting SOMETHING out and then tweaking from there. My writing in the mornings is very raw, and I’m learning to start blog drafts that I can come back to – but I’m setting deadlines for myself to post so I don’t tweak it forever. Thanks for the push I need to keep moving forward.

  36. We have a golden retriever. I get the opportunity to walk her for 1 to 1.5 miles two times a day. It’s a quiet time when I get to talk with God or to just be quiet with my thoughts.

    Another thing that happens when I’m walking is that I get new ideas for posts or scenes for my book. When I get home, I write the ideas down exactly as I’m thinking about them. I may write one section a couple of times. I may jump around with my ideas. There are partial thoughts. And, there is definately all sorts of bad spelling and grammer.

    After I write it down, I leave it alone. I’ll come back to those ideas in a day or two and see what looks interesting. Then, I take the interesting things and turn them into something: which takes about 5 drafts.

    All in all, it’s something that I really enjoy.  

  37. Thank you Jeff! When I retruned home from an outing with my grandkids I sat down and wrote of the experience. It was not beautiful and inspiring, I’d say it was a bit ulgy. You have given me the prompting to use it anyway, to help me grow to become a better writer. Thanks, Cari

  38. here’s some ugly from my draft folder…
    When we arrived at the cath lab early last Thursday at 5:45 am, 15 minutes early my wife Joanne and I were motioned to the waiting room and assured we would be summoned shortly. No biggie, we’ve heard the spiel hundreds of times so we moseyed on in and grabbed a seat. Crazy fast thoughts were running through my head like ‘what if they find a blockage and have to do emergency surgery?’ and ‘why did I have to sit directly across from this twenty something wearing a miniskirt?’ and ‘Lord, where are you in all this?’ and ‘sheez I’m starving’ and ‘don’t these people know how to use their quiet voices?’ Then I remembered that I had a mission, so I pulled out my pad and started writing…resolving to tune out the noisy crowd and the blaring TV only to listen for what mattered.45 minutes later the assistant called out, “Mrs. Smith we’re ready for you” and we were off to the holding room. Shortly after the nurses with cold hands took all her vitals, inserted her IV and left the room Joanne asked me to pray. I could sense her anxiety about the arteriogram so we held hands and gave it up to Jesus. Then the nurses came and rolled her out for the procedure. Minutes later it dawned on me that I was alone and wouldn’t have a clue about the outcome until they bought her back. Suddenly I started to panic again.

  39. I get ugly with workflowy and its outline and note taking ability. Then the work fleshes out even uglier long before any smooth skin grows.

  40. Love this!  I have heard this from a few others.  It allows you to simply get it down and not worry about anything else, to truly free flow.  Feel free to take a look at my completed book outline that is a rough draft and leave me any advice, criticism, etc at  Thanks!  

  41. Great post. That’s the great fantasy, isn’t it – that we can just sit down and write and have it be perfect the first time. Sigh.

  42. I let some friends read the first draft of my WIP, & now that I’ve learned more, I know how ugly those 90k words were. But my gracious friends encouraged me, & that’s what I needed to continue. Now I have a critique partner to point out the ugly. 🙂

  43. “You can’t revise nothing.” I forget who said that, but it’s true. You have to give yourself something to work with.
    A couple of days ago (early in the morning)  I realized that I edit before the ink even gets on the paper. I thought of a story that would take place in Africa. First thought: ‘you can’t do that! You’re not African. You  can’t take on someone else’s voice, that’s wrong.’  The second thing that happens is every thought gets filtered through my writing knowledge:  ‘No, don’t start with shimmering heat on the road or sticky air – those are cliches, you can’t use cliches.’ ‘Don’t start with that, it’s a short story, you need to be more direct, you can’t start there.’ ‘Who is she? What’s her story? That’s boring – you can’t use that.”As soon as I start I come up with all the reasons why this is a bad idea, why it won’t work.  So I stop. But, if I don’t put the cliched, winding, stolen and boring stuff on the page, what do I have to work with? We need the ugly stuff. That’s our starting point. Thanks for making me realize this, Jeff.

  44. Thanks for the encouragement to be “ugly” but at least creating…hope Aiden is continuing to make you both smile 🙂

  45. Whew! Something I’m already getting right. It’s good to know there’s nothing wrong with me. I was getting frustrated when my ideas on paper weren’t clear as they were in my head. Now I know it’s my lack of continued work.

  46. Whew! Something I’m already getting right. It’s good to know there’s nothing wrong with me. I was getting frustrated when my ideas on paper weren’t clear as they were in my head. Now I know it’s my lack of continued work.

  47. I have an ugly devotion I’m letting sit in the backyard of my computer.  Steam is rising from it and flies are buzzing around it.   Okay, maybe it’s not quite THAT bad.  I don’t know, maybe it is.   But it’s sitting there, baking in the sun, waiting for me to go out there and scoop it up and use it as fertilizer to grow something beautiful. 

  48. This is so true! We worry so often that what we want to say will be terrible–give yourself permission for it to be awful at first! I am writing my first screenplay and actually named it ‘Crappy First Draft’ so I see it everytime I save it. It reminds me to let go of the angst I have to make the writing perfect or even pretty at first. Thanks for (another) encouraging post.

  49. Today’s assignment saw me finishing a large field report draft early but, even better, it led to to me seeking out the in-person opinion of a professional columnist friend before any editorial passes on the work. They still liked what they read. Thanks!

  50. Ugly start to a poem:

    Light bubbles past the eastern rim
    Infant sun crawling higher
    The newest mercy come from Him
    Morning’s holy altar-fire

    But saved under the title “draft1” with more tinkering to come.

  51. I combined Day 6 & 7 (kind of neat how it worked out naturally to do so).  I stole an idea from you, Jeff, and made it my own through a poem entitled “It Starts At Ugly”; sharing it in the link-up! =)  I’m enjoying this series tremendously–challenging me to stretch beyond what I thought was my capability.  Thank you!

  52. I think this 15 days process has made me more of a reader. Learning. Laughing. This community is just amazing.
    I have some ugly in drafts. I keep reminding myself that once it’s out there it is out! 
    Balance between complete, review, revise and ship.
    Careful is prudent. Full of care (for my audience).Ugly is not the same as useless.
    (This comment is ugly…) tick post

  53. Hi – I just fired away this morning with what had been on my mind since yesterday, and instead of weighing every word and being too concerned with grammar and spelling, got it all out in a page and a half.  In the past I would not write at all, resulting in so much frustration!  It’s a relieve to just allow the piece to be imperfect, but at least it’s THERE , in black and white.  Thanks!   

  54. Thanks for all the encouragement Jeff.  My problem is that I’m a schizophrenic
    READER.  John Sanford, Terry Prachett, Ann Rice, Robert B. Parker, Stephen King ect… any (well written) story.  With so many genres and styles, I can’t seem to merge MY style.  It’s very frustrating.  Guess I gotta get ugly huh?

  55. Thanks for all the encouragement Jeff.  My problem is that I’m a schizophrenic
    READER.  John Sanford, Terry Prachett, Ann Rice, Robert B. Parker, Stephen King ect…
    any (well written) story.  With so many genres and styles, I can’t seem to merge MY
    style.  It’s very frustrating.  Guess I gotta get ugly huh?

  56. Hey! I just came across your blog via Twitter. Thanks for this post in particular. I am guilty, often, of wanting what I write to be right first time. I hate revising it. Often, what I have written first time is what has been submitted, especially with Academic essays.

    I have just (yesterday) started a Winter course (being in Australia) in Creative Writing; 7 weeks of practising the art. I have also just started reading Stephen King’s book: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. I’m about 50 pages in and it’s looking really good. I had never read any of his work, being scared off when a highschool girlfriend took me out to see Misery at the Cinema. Horror is not really my thing.

    Anyway, enough of this rabbiting on. Thanks for the post. I shall be sure and add my email address to the list.

  57. Great post. I write and paint. As I have done more of both, I have found that they are both creative outlets that can always be tweaked. A canvas that I paint is never done. Only abandoned until I come back to it or I am okay enough with it to frame it…but never done. That is the mystery…that keeps me coming back for more.

  58. Ugly is the short choppy junk that I scratch in the little spiral notebook I carry in my bag. If I can’t get to any other medium, for example while traveling, I can at least spend some time practicing for45 minute during that lay over between flights. It may be ugly but I’m writing everyday. Hooray! I’ll use it later in a more lovely essay, or not. My joy comes from knowing I’m being true to my need to write.

  59. Since this series, I keep  a folder in my bag of my drafts for blog posts.  I have been procrastinating for too long and waiting for perfect drafts, but I realize I won’t produce perfection.   Starting is the hardest thing and as long as I continue to write and produce it will get better. 

  60. Good work Jeff. There are a few nuggets here.

    I’ve got a few projects on the go and all at the ‘ugly’ stage.

    I don’t want to spend a load of money on a creative writing course which may or may not help me. So I was thinking of starting a blog and posting some of my ugly stuff in the hope that feedback would make it more beautiful.

    What do you think? Good or bad idea?

    1. I’m not sure what Jeff might say, but I did just that. Blogs can be set to private with you, or a small few as the readers. I was my only reader for a long time on my first blog!

      I started a new one a year or so ago because I felt like I didn’t have the energy to clean up the first one…

      Good luck! ~ Kate

  61. Thank you so much for this timely reminder. A friend of mine (who’s also a writing teacher) always says, “Give yourself permission to write badly.” It’s always good to be reminded of this – that every writer starts ugly, that creativity always begins in chaos. Feels like I can breathe again …

  62. I’ve never been good with poetry, but, I am attempting to write a picture book in verse. It will be ugly for a long, long time. But, I’m okay with that…the end product will be worth the time invested. Thanks for the shot in the arm, Jeff!

  63. I’m a few days behind… playing catch-up. Wow, this is powerful stuff:

    “When we choose to start ugly, we do the following: We actually create something (instead of continuing to dream about it).We grow. We learn what works and what doesn’t.We get the chance to make it better.”

  64. I love this: “We actually create something (instead of continuing to dream about it).” I continue to work it through in my head and I can even see myself creating it ugly, but it is only a dream until it is on paper. thank you.

  65. I really enjoyed burping out my blog post yesterday, and today I gave it an hour of tweaks and added photos. (feed back welcome!)

    I took day #7 to heart a bit more by listening to the advise to “pick the project that is most likely to fail”, which is a children’s book that I started based on a story that I told my neice a few months back.

    The constant interruptions this summer are really frustrating me (including today) so rather than expect that I have the time I’m now wanting and needed to jot out a first draft…I sort of mapped out a timeline of finishing and sharing the story with my neice, and then some other children.

    In the end, I decided to bind at Kinko’s whatever she and I come up with, sloppiest copies will do fine, and give it to her and myself for her fall 6th bday.

    I hope..hope I can move on to day 8 tomorrow! off to ready the coffee pot and hope for the best…

  66. Hi Jeff, Everyone!
    I did follow all your challenges Jeff and I did learn a lot. I wish I knew you and all I learned, four years ago, when I started writing. But it is never too late! Is it? The challenges are over now, and although, Jeff, you are still with us, still challenging us, it is up to us to do the work we were called to do. 
    Finally, I do believe I am a writer…soon to be author! 
    And finally, after four years of solitary writing, I am guest posting at Footprints of the Mind Website.
    I am sharing the link where you can read my article regarding my reflections from my visit to the Acropolis Museum in Athens, Greece. It would be an honor if you spent a little time clicking, reading, and leaving a comment. Jeff, you got me here…or there! I am counting on you to be supportive of me in front of all my friends to whom I have been talking or writing about you. So, did I twist your arm yet?
    OK! No more kidding! Here is the link. I hope to see comments from this community  at the end of my artickle! Thank you all for your support and your ideas!

Comments are closed.