Buzz Bissinger on being OK with sucky first drafts

Buzz BissingerI’ve always been a huge fan of Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights, one of the best narrative nonfiction books I’ve ever read. His recent appearance on the outstanding Longform Podcast is a great listen. He covers everything from his classic book, to his more recent work, to his own personal and professional challenges, and what it’s like to struggle with doubt and confidence as a writer.

Towards the end, his answer to a question about advice for struggling writers (it starts at about the 1:29 mark in the podcast), is memorable, valuable stuff:

The creative act is so fraught with peril. You can do something wonderful and no one will pay attention to it You can do something terrible and everyone will pay attention to it. There’s an agony to it. There’s a remoteness to it. There’s an isolation to it. And confidence is the key… It’s the key to everything…

When I just tell myself: “you know what, just do it… Get it out on paper… Just get it out, on paper… Don’t attach all this ‘is it gonna be good?’… ‘is it going to sell?'”…

Just relax. Be disciplined enough to write for a certain number of hours per day… whatever you’re comfortable with.

There’s no worse feeling… then you look at the computer screen and its empty four hours later. That’s a terrible feeling. And that only makes fear worse. And the only way to conquer the fear is just do it. And I guarantee you, even if it sucks — and a lot of times is DOES suck — you will feel so much better because now you have something to work with; now you have something physical to play with, to change…

Now you have that first draft and it may suck… and — forget the negative — you’re going to see… it’s not so bad… A shift here, a scene here, a section here… Maybe I see a better way to tell the narrative… And hopefully you’ll hit that curve of delicious, euphoric, orgasmic confidence…

Once you have something palpable and physical, it’s going to make you feel better, and then it gets fun…

Check out the rest of the podcast here.

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