“I’ve made a ton of mistakes, but you need the messy stuff.
You learn from it!”
J-Lo coming anywhere near messy stuff? It’s hard to believe: Even her long, flowing hair looks arranged. Still, it’s heartening to know that she’s had her share of mistakes and that her life isn’t always humming along perfectly like a glamorous Hollywood movie.
But she’s so right: we need the messy stuff. And as writers, we have lots of it to play with! Writing is all about messy stuff, if you think about it: We take the messy stuff of life and we give it shape and meaning. We take a messy draft and we cut this and add that until a coherent story emerges. We take a messy plot and we tighten and fine-tune it until it’s plausible and sometimes even inevitable. And all along the way, we’re constantly making mistakes, adjusting our strategy, and course correcting until we finally get where we want to go and, hopefully, take our readers along with us.
When I think about the “messy” aspects of my plunge into fiction, I could write a book!
For starters, I began with a few characters and no plot. My first draft was rambling and too long. My second major redraft was better, but the story arc was still weak. The ending was too abrupt — not a satisfying reader experience. I could go on, but I’ll stop here.
But through my writing and rewriting, I’ve come think of these messes as compost heaps: rich, fertile, magical hotbeds of sifting, shifting creative energy. When things are messy, there’s movement, tension, drama, confusion, possibility. Things break open and new ideas and opportunities pop out and bubble up. So when you find yourself in a mess: dive in, make mistakes, get messy! Mistakes = Messes = Learning: Not a bad success formula. Write on!