It doesn’t have to be great

On Monday I wrote about my year-long project of listening to all the works of Bach. I am also continuing another year-long project from the year before: writing 2 lines in a sonnet every day. Two lines isn’t much — 20 syllables with alternating emphasis in a certain rhyming scheme — but over the course of 2023 that added up to 52 sonnets. I figure I’ll write another 52 this year.

Because of how 2023 started (January 1 was a Sunday) my general pattern is to start a new sonnet on Sunday. Some weeks I know exactly what I’m going to write about. Some weeks I don’t. So I’m sitting there trying to come up with something.

This past Sunday I was really scraping the bottom of the barrel, idea-wise. I had an idea, but I also felt like that might wind up as a not-so-great sonnet.

But then I reminded myself: It doesn’t have to be great. The point of a project like this is to just keep going. If I commit to writing two lines a day, I’m going to write a lot more sonnets than if I don’t. When I write a lot of sonnets, some are going to be kind of tedious. But so what? If I write a lot of sonnets, probably some are going to be better than if I write fewer sonnets, just because of how a distribution curve might look.

So I’m finishing out this current sonnet through the week. Next week I’ll move on to something different. If I’m bored with this sonnet this week well…best to use that impulse to think of a better idea to start this coming Sunday. It doesn’t have to be great. It just has to get done.

6 thoughts on “It doesn’t have to be great

  1. This was a good post – very encouraging! I sometimes put off journaling because I feel like I don’t have anything important to say- but you are right – it doesn’t have to be great. Plus in whatever I do, nine times out of ten when I just do it I am glad I did even if I didn’t do a perfect job. Also just read your book “ I Know How She Does It “ and really liked it ! Inspired me to start tracking my time!

    1. @Linda- thank you! Yep, with a lot of things it is better to just keep going. Quality will come from quantity, because the more stuff you produce, the better the odds that at least some of it is decent!

      So glad you enjoyed I Know How She Does It – I hope the time tracking proves useful 🙂

  2. Yes, Ms. Laura Vanderkam, I also think that the point of a project like this is to just keep going. An example of a project that I have done is to recycle the bottles that I have.
    I also hope that you are recovering from the back pain.
    In the meantime, I wonder: Did you write the sonnets just for yourself to read, or you’re going to publish them? Or are there some other purposes?

    1. @Yukun – thanks for your good wishes. I am mostly writing the sonnets just to write them (for myself) but I might publish the better ones some day. We shall see!

  3. Laura, I read this when the email was sent and this morning was just on the struggle bus. The words “it doesn’t have to be great” came to mind. So I searched for the email and reread it. That line has become my new favorite of late, it’s simple and easy for my brain to absorb during this time of month when brain fog is real and energy is low. Anyways, thank you for that one liner and this post. It’s super helpful on days like today to remember you know, “it doesn’t have to be great.” Just that phrase lightens the load.
    Request: will you make that subject a Vanderhack? I loveeee that Substack let’s you play the audio of your Vanderhacks and I’d love to be able to save this one and listen in to it when I need that load lightened and the reminder:
    “It doesn’t have to be great.”

    1. @Ali – so glad this post was helpful for you. Yep, we all wind up on the struggle bus sometimes. It’s fine to do what we can to just keep going. Hope you are doing well!

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