Lessons Learned: Dare to Be Bad

I’ve tried to front-load the most important lessons learned that allowed me to write a short story a week. After learning what the parts of a basic short story is (see the 7 Point Plot Structure in earlier blog posts) the next most important lesson was to set expectations.

Writing a short story a week isn’t about producing a perfect shining pearl of a story each week. It is about ripping out an adequate short story a week and trusting the process to teach me how to write better. That is what happened. I wrote a lot and I became a better writer. Had I edited one or two short stories a lot, I would have become a better editor. Presumably. Though even with editing, I think one becomes better by editing a lot of different stories than just one or two.

Dean calls this “Dare to be Bad!” I embraced it.

Dean says that authors don’t even know whether their work is bad or good. Probably true. Some of the short stories I wrote and didn’t like were other people’s favorites. Conversely some of my favorites don’t have resonance for other people.

“Dare to Be Bad” is not about producing bad work. It’s about allowing the creative voice maximum space to be as bad as it wants. It’s about suspending judgement long enough to get a short story written.

Dare to be Bad is the equivalent of Quarantine Cookery. I am not going to the store more often than once a month to avoid exposing ourselves to the virus (then I clean everything to a fair-thee-well). Two weeks into the month I look around the kitchen and think, “I have a wilted zucchini, lasagna noodles, a pack of tofu, a dish of okara, some rice, hummus, lentils, and some frozen veggies, hmmmm. What’s for dinner?” Then I whip up something. It may be uninspiring or it may be the perfect confluence of flavors combining elements I never would have before. Either way, it’s dinner, which is the object of the exercise.

Dare to be Bad says to the inner writer, “Here are the elements we have. What can you whip up with these?” Sometimes my inner writer is a genius. Sometimes not. Either way, it’s a short story, which is the object of the exercise.

Dare to be bad, friends! This was one of the most important lessons I learned that enabled a short story a week.

I hope you are doing well and that your self-isolated suppers are delicious works of art. Or edible dinners. Whatever works.

Be well, friends! And stay well.

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