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Be Dumb

Published on November 6, 2012 by in Writing

If you’re subscribed to Mur Lafferty’s podcast I SHOULD BE WRITING–and why wouldn’t you be?–then you probably have already heard her interview with me that went up Friday. Midway through, we talk about being too dumb to know you can fail (Scott Sigler coined the expression; thanks, Scott), and how not overthinking your goals can lead to success. It’s hard not to overthink, especially for writers, whose chosen occupation is to overthink everything in order to better explain it to others. We are our own worst enemy, cutting ourselves off at the shins before we even begin.

I’ve been reminded of this as people talk about their NaNoWriMo novels. NaNo-ing requires you to not think too hard about what you’re writing, in order to get the words out on the page. You have to be dumb about it, getting your plot and your characters in order, and save the stringing of pearls for later drafts. Which, quite frankly, is how the pros do it. No one’s first draft is their final.

I’ve also heard people talk that they don’t have the skills, the talent, the smarts to tell their story. They feel dumb, because their taste has outstripped their skill. Ira Glass knows what I’m talking about:

You have to let yourself be dumb. That first draft–even if it’s not written at the breakneck pace of NaNoWriMo–is going to be dumb. You’re going to hate it and be embarrassed by it and not going to want anyone to see it. And that’s fine. Because its only by being dumb that you can build the skills so that you can be smart. Only by being dumb can you get out of your own way, and be confident that you can succeed.

And because I am a man of my word, I set up a place to buy “Be Dumb” t-shirts. I’m still working on the neckties.



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