Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

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.

About Jeff Goins

I am the best-selling author of five books, including the national bestsellers The Art of Work and Real Artists Don't Starve. Each week, I send out a free newsletter with my best tips on writing, publishing, and helping your creative work succeed.

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