Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Ugly Baby!

By John Garvey

My son was not a beautiful baby. He had frown lines, baby acne, male pattern baldness, and a belly button that seemed determined to remain an outie.

Eventually, he grew past pissed at being evicted. He gained some weight, his widow's peak grew in, and he became expressive.

You've heard it from other people. "Whew, so and so's baby is ugly." It might cost me some nights on the couch, but my son was briefly not cute.

Writers, I say to you we have the same myopic perspective. Beware thinking the first thing you write is the most beautiful baby in the world. YOUR BABY IS UGLY. As you grow as a writer, you'll look back and think, "Man, that was an ugly baby."

Be proud of your work. Craft with integrity. If it's your first piece, be glad. Know it's not the best you have to offer. We have to work at it and edit it and polish it. It's a lot of time.

It's true across industries, but more so in creative fields. Pixar founder, Ed Catmull said, "Every one of our films, when we start off . . . they suck. Our job is to take it from sucks to something that doesn't suck. That's the hard work."

Having the ability to laugh at our blunders gives us room to improve. 

It's a common thing for writers to think their first completed piece is A MASTERPIECE. We don't typically start with some random topic. We pick something in which we're invested. We're passionate about it. We research it. We nurture it.

It can sting if the response is rejection or criticism. 

My first article was going to change the way millions of people perceived the world and lived their day-to-day lives. Complete strangers would name their children after me.

I researched it thoroughly. I wrote honestly. It was pedantic, long-winded, and a little tone-deaf.

It was rejected multiple times. I ended up taking a break from professional writing. A three-year break.

When you start from a perceived pinnacle, whichever way you turn is downhill.

I went to graduate school. My wife and I had two more children. Nothing erodes your arrogance like children.

I pulled the article out again and said, "This is one ugly-ass baby!"

I revised it. I changed the tone and made it less sucky. It was published.

Even if you're adequate at the outset, one day you'll look back at those earlier pieces and think, "Man, those kinda sucked."

If I'd realized it at the time, I might have taken the shorter path to getting that first article accepted. Find the middle path. Don't beat yourself up and don't invest in thinking it's the BEST THING EVER WRITTEN. 

Daniel Pink talks about pumping up your mental fortitude. 

I may look back on some of the work I'm doing now and from that standpoint think it sucks. I'm okay with that. Just don't tell the people who pay me. 

John writes about clean energy/cleantech R&D, business model innovation, the Colorado hemp industry, sustainability, passive architecture and anything that's brewed, distilled or fermented. He contributes to more than a half-dozen magazines, blogs and news publications.

His slogan sums it up: Reliable, Entertaining Content.

You can read more of his portfolio at

1 comment:

April Moore said...

We've all been there. Lots of successful writers will tell you that the best thing you can do for something you've written, is to distance yourself from it for a while, whether it be three days, three months, or three years. It goes to show that we are always learning, improving, and evolving as writers. Life has a way of changing our perspective on a dime, which in turn, changes our writing (always for the better)!

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