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Monday, March 28, 2016

Book Review - Make it Mighty Ugly

I picked this up at the local library because the title intrigued me. I'm glad I did. Confession time: I've been burned out and in a rut lately. I don't want to write anything. I don't want to do anything but watch youtube videos. It's understandable considering my life over the last couple of years - graduate school, funerals, weddings, grandkids, teenagers of my own, health problems, and then moving across states. I gave myself permission to do as little as possible for a while. After two or three weeks, I'm itching to get back to work on my projects. Not this time. The joy has gone out of it. I feel pressured to make it perfect or not at all. I can't allow myself to make mistakes or mess up.

Except failures and mistakes are part of life and sometimes the best part. Failing doesn't mean you're no good or a waste of space. Failing means you learned something and have space to try again. Failing can sometimes result in something even better than what you originally planned. Sometimes failing means you need to learn more, stretch your wings farther, or try a different approach.

Make it Mighty Ugly is a kickstart to creativity. The author, Kim Piper Werker, has a series of exercises to help. First, identify whatever you do well. Group them into themes. Then move on to the voices in your head and what they say to you. You know what I'm talking about - the voices that tell you that you suck, that you aren't good enough, that what you make is awful. Kim talks you through how to beat those voices into submission. You can't make them go away, but you can minimize their impact on you.

She has several other exercises after that including the one that inspired the name of the book. Make something ugly. As hideous as possible. Not cute-ugly or even appealing, but downright homely. This lets you focus on making it. And she suggests taking no more than ninety minutes to make it, start to finish. The idea is to let go of your perfectionist and critical voices and just have fun. It's supposed to be ugly and lopsided and not perfect. The outcome isn't important, just the process.

This was the kick in the pants I needed. Why do I write? Why do I create? Because I enjoy it. It's fun. Except it hasn't been lately. So I'm going to make it ugly for a while, until I'm back in touch with the joy of the process. That doesn't mean writing a novel isn't painful and hard and a lot of work because it is. But even while slogging through it, there should be joy.

I think this is what NaNoWriMo is aiming for. If you aren't familiar with it, it's National Novel Writing Month, usually in November although it's expanded to April, June and several other months. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It doesn't have to be good or even coherent. The goal is to get the words flowing, to get in touch with your inner creative writer. Sometimes pushing the words out is the only way. Somewhere in those 50,000 words of crap, there are nuggets of good writing. Sometimes even brilliance. Diamonds buried in the sand.

That's the point of Make it Mighty Ugly. Just do it. Allow yourself room for failure. Allow yourself to not be perfect every time. Allow yourself to find your own way of expressing your creative impulses.

The book is worth reading. I give it five stars and a big thumbs up.