Writing through the Ugly Middle

Writing through the ugly middles is hard.A few weeks ago, I read a post about writing through the ugly middle. When a writer is in the midst of writing a draft, he or she can’t stop. The writer has to reach the end, even if the end is ugly or is a return to the beginning. The writer has to follow where the middle goes.

I’m a writer who believes in writing through the ugly middle. It’s one reason I try to write without stopping. I don’t pause for errors, even if I note them in my head. I keep writing. I try to reach some sort of ending so that I can find my way back to the beginning and work from there. Without words on the page, I have nothing with which to work. I have to have the words, no matter how disjointed or unrelated to one another they are.

As I’ve thought about ugly middles, I’ve come to a realization: the ugly middles aren’t always found in drafts. They’re found in life. I know this, but hearing the phrase “ugly middle” helped me to put a term around trying times such as a depleted bank account, a discouraging work situation, or the loss of a friend or a relationship. Times like those. Times of seemingly non-stop ugly middles.

It’s in times like those that a writer has to hold fast to his or her identity as a writer. When the words don’t come easily or don’t come at all, he or she has to trust that the words will come. The writer may have to cease from writing for a time, but he or she eventually has to settle back into the discipline of the writing life. The writer begins to put words down on paper or the screen. He or she works through the ugly middles, both the ones in life and the ones in drafts.

Photo: Walt Stoneburner (CC BY 2.0)


  1. The ugly middle really does have multiple applications.

    • Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes It really does. I wrote this post several weeks ago. I remember thinking of one of your posts as I was writing it (Naturally, I forgot to bookmark the link so that I could link to it.). You had written about difficult financial times, I believe.

  2. I can recall a number of times when I simply started writing, even though I didn’t feel like it and was pleasantly surprised what ended up on the proverbial page. I think your advice about writing through the ugly is excellent.

  3. Good philosophy for many approaches in life. Have you read Seth Godin’s The Dip? It’s about the same topic, in a way. It helped me with the understanding of pushing through to get something done. The middle is ugly. It’s where all the hard work gets done. Check it out if you’re interested. http://sethgodin.typepad.com/the_dip/

    • rdopping I haven’t read the book. I’ll have to add it to my reading list. Thank you for the recommendation!
      You’re right. It’s easy to start a thing. It even can be easy to finish it. It’s hard to see the thing through when you’re in the thick of it.


  1. […] It is important to remember that there exists such a thing as the Ugly Middle. When you start writing, it seems like you fly towards the happy end of your novel (or whatever you […]

  2. […] That isn’t always the case. Sometimes, the writing comes hard. The art refuses to take shape on the page. I erase and erase and erase and ultimately push the page away in frustration. I know enough to get away from the work. I also know enough to stick with it; at times, the only way to get somewhere is to walk through the murky middle. […]