Northern Mummy

General thoughts and wittering about all sorts of things

Ugly is the new beautiful

on June 13, 2012

It’s Day 7 of the Great Writers Series and the word is start.  And Jeff maintains that the only way to start anything is to start it ugly.  In fact, his words are:

“You can first make it ugly, or not make it at all. There is nothing else.”

This resonates with me.  To go back to my house-work analogy of two days ago, each time we set about “sorting” a room or area of the house, we find that things have to get much, much worse before they can start to improve.  Despite the fact that the Butterfly’s room already had a layer of toys covering its entire floor and looked as if it couldn’t get any worse, Southern Daddy had to strew more bits and pieces over this layer in order to dismantle and move the old sofa bed.  In order to get the new storage into the room we have begun to heap up these items towards the walls so that there’s a clear path through the middle of the room (it’s taking a while, it’s going to need two of us to get it up the stairs and we never seem to be at home simultaneously this week!).  But once it’s in place we’re all looking forward to a lot of the clutter disappearing into the storage boxes (or in some cases the bin) and a prettier, more spacious looking room.  And no more Playmobil being stored in my room – yay!

I could get really deep and talk about how things get ugly before they get beautiful when we attempt to improve or reform ourselves but that’s a bit twee.

In writing, I’m pleased to say, I have never shied away from “starting ugly”.  If something occurs to me that I want to write, it gets written, usually quite quickly and often without any clear beginning or end (I often read Jen Campbell’s blog, This is not the Six Word Novelwhich bears under its heading the following quotation from Vickie Karp : When we read, we start at the beginning and continue until we reach the end.  When we write, we start in the middle and fight our way out).  Ever the daughter of an English teacher, I then begin a painstaking process of reading and re-reading, examining each sentence for grammatical, punctuation and spelling errors, scrutinising the syntax and construction and considering the choice of words until they express what I wanted to say as exactly as possible.  At the same time I’ll be trying to fill in the gaps (which often takes a long time unless I’m seized with inspiration) and, if it’s fiction, considering the characters themselves, whether they would really do what I’ve made them do or if there’s another way they might respond to, or find themselves in, the situation I’ve created.

So, starting ugly – not a problem.  The part I find difficult, at the risk of sounding like a stuck record, is the sharing and receiving feedback.  I’m still seeking an appropriate first reader for the novel but I’ve been motivated to do it now, which is a big step forward.

And now I’m going to do something I’ve never done before, in the spirit of Start Ugly Day: I shall publish this post without previewing or proofreading it!

PS – Forgot to say that the title comes from the comments section of today’s post by Jeff.  It was in response to the fact that some people have shared their ugly starts and been surprised to find how impressed others have been by what they themselves perceive to be rough and ready!


5 responses to “Ugly is the new beautiful

  1. fionamerrick says:

    Well done – I didn’t notice any mistakes at all in your non-proofread post! Most impressed! How funny that we both went for a housework analogy today, and the very same one at that 😀 xxx

  2. Alice says:

    Wow! Well done for posting without checking! Your ‘ugly’ words work brilliantly! I’m really glad you’ve found someone to share your work with. I’ve just started a similar process and am amazed by how encouraging people are and that they’re cheering us on not pulling us down. You’re doing a great job! Xxx

  3. northmum says:

    Thank you both 🙂 It is great isn’t it that our the ugliness doesn’t seem nearly so bad to others. Very encouraging!

  4. northmum says:

    Haha! Certainly posted that without checking!! Try again: “It is great, isn’t it, that our the ugliness doesn’t seem nearly so bad to others?” (Must be time for bed!)

    • northmum says:

      Oh, my word! Still didn’t get it right! Evidently copying and pasting something as a template when it’s already got mistakes in it is not the way to go 😀

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