Writer. Editor. Leximaven. Game Designer. Vorpal Blonde. Bisexual Brainlicker. Midas's Touch. Schrödinger's Brat.

Twas Brillig

Day 24 The Poison Eater: You Don’t Know What You’re Doing

posted on: January 24, 2016
in: Blog, The Poison Eater: A Numenera Novel

Photo on 1-24-16 at 5.24 PM #3

Here’s the secret to writing, creating, and living life that no one tells you. Or that someone did tell you, but you didn’t hear it or you thought, “no, that can’t be true” or you heard it but thought it didn’t actually apply to you.

You don’t know what you’re doing. AND THAT’S OKAY. It’s how it’s supposed to work.

All the parts of that truth have to go together. Don’t say one without the other two. In fact, I’ll say it again, as a single sentence, in case you didn’t hear it:

You don’t know what you’re doing–AND THAT’S OKAY–because that’s how it’s supposed to work.

Every day, I sit down to do my job. And I don’t know what I’m doing.

Every day, for twenty+ years, I have sat down to do my job. And I didn’t know what I was doing.

Every day, for twenty+ years, I have made a career out of doing something that I don’t know how to do.

And that, I think, is how it’s supposed to work. To be a creator, you have to create. The very act of creation is to make something brand new, to do something that’s never been done before. How could you know how to do it if it’s never been done?

There’s no secret potion. No magic bean or button. No book or class or teacher that’s going to give you the perfect key to the creative door. (And having read a lot of books, taken and taught a lot of classes, I’m all for them–I think they’re great, and they help you learn–but they’re only part of the process). 

If you want to be a writer, a creator, a life-liver, this is the only way I know how:

Be okay with the fact that you don’t know what you’re doing.
Sit down and do the thing you don’t know how to do.

It’s a catch-22, but the very best kind: Because every time you sit down and do what you don’t know how to do, you start to figure out how to do it. Rinse. Repeat.

To do it is to learn how to do it. So, the sooner you start screwing up, the better.

Today, I screwed up 2500 words of this novel. Tomorrow, I will screw up even more.

Go. Start screwing up. Right now. I dare you.




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  1. Jason Riedy
    posted on Jan 30, 2016 at 10:04 AM

    I’m in computing research. When students ask how to do new things, I remind them that I don’t know what I’m doing, and that if I did, it wouldn’t be research…

  2. posted on Jan 25, 2016 at 2:26 AM

    And I thought I was the only one. There are days I feel like a massive fraud, winging it outrageously and terrified that someone’s going to find out.

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