Dig that out of the trash can

I can’t recall who said it originally or who it was that repeated it to me, but some wise writer once said you’re not allowed to throw out bad writing until you’ve shared it with someone else.
We’re our own worst critics, snarky and nit picky, embarrassed by our work, hiding it until we think it’s properly “cooked” and ready to serve to an audience. Even if that audience is your own writing group.
I’ve finally found a wonderful group of writers here in DC and our “assignment” was to bring in the final scene of the play we’re working on. Even if you haven’t written a word for any other scene in the play. I’ve been struggling with my LA riots play for ten years now. It haunts me. And since this spring marks the 20th anniversary, I know I’ve got to finish it. So I gave a stab to the assignment, trying to write that scene that I’ve been avoiding forever.
It was awful. Hide your face in a paper bag awful. Repeated sentences, facts out of order, wierd entrances, and worst of all, no resolution. I knew it was awful and spent weeks trying to “fix” it. Finally, I decided to stop looking at it and just not bring anything in to my group. Chicken!
But Sunday morning, I asked myself what I had to lose? This was a new group of people. If they thought ill of me and my work, did it really matter? Would they tell the whole town what a lousy writer I was?
I printed out the pages, handed them out, and confessed I hadn’t really completed the assignment. The scene was a problem. So there.
Listening to it read out loud, I could see where my fellow writers were interested, confused, amused. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was. And those generous writers put their clever heads together and offered me a way out of my conundrum. It wasn’t one last scene, it was a series of scenes trying to squeeze into that last scene. Let it breathe.
But most of all, their enthusiasm for this badly written piece of work, wanting to know the characters, the rest of the story, helped me regain my confidence about the work. It wasn’t awful. Just a work in progress.
So my advice for the day: courage fellow writers. Be brave enough to share the rotten work with people you trust. There may be seeds there that can grow into something even more wonderful than you imagined it in the first place.

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