Daring to Suck

Maggie Stiefvater just posted a blog entry entitled “Hi, I Suck.” Now, most people familiar with Stiefvater’s finished work will know that it does not suck. But how did it get that way? Stiefvater explains that her skill with writing, art, and playing several musical instruments all comes down to one thing: her willingness to suck. In particular, she says, in order to get good at something, you have to be willing to practice it for a long time while being humiliatingly bad at it. This is particularly true in the case of learning the bagpipes, which you apparently have to play badly at about 100 decibels for quite a while before you get to be any good. Most people give up long before that.

Similarly, author Maureen Johnson posted a vlog video called “Dare to Suck” in which she discusses the necessity of sucking as part of the learning process, as well as the professional process of writing. Johnson describes the years of sucking that one must go through before writing a decent book, arguing that most teens should avoid trying to get published because they simply haven’t sucked long enough. Even established authors, she says, usually write sucky first drafts, and must be comfortable with that, knowing that they will get ripped apart and changed in order to improve.

I think it can be said that authors, actors, artists, musicians, doctors, lawyers, and others with extraordinary talents that set them apart from most other people are all put on a pedestal to an extent because they are doing things that are incredibly challenging. Developing any of the skills required for such jobs demands a great deal of suckage, and most people are weeded out long before they can make it to a comfortable level of success. As a culture, we celebrate these professions because they are valuable to us, certainly, but also because we recognize the degree of difficulty necessary to achieve them, and the rarity of the kind of people with the mettle to work that hard.

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