Bad Writing is Good Too

Every creative industry has its myths. Music has its rock n roll myths, art has its, as does movie making and dancing.

In writing, there is this idea that some people can just write well and never write anything bad. This myth also holds that if you can’t get it out right first time, you’re doing something wrong.

It’s good to write bad stuff, or to write good stuff badly. Really, it is. That way you get it out of your system. Watch yourself, read yourself. Be aware when you are writing badly. Analyse why it doesn’t work, learn from it. But don’t try and stop writing badly. You won’t be able to. Even when you’ve been writing every day for 30 years it’ll still happen and you should still be glad.

The thing is, every bad piece of writing you have done is now out THERE and not inside your head. This is important for a few reasons. Number one: if it’s outside your head you can now look at it more carefully. Is the piece bad because you wrote it badly? This should mean you can edit and fix it. This is OK, at least now you got the idea down and later you can come back and work on it.

Number two, did the idea just not go where you expected? This is also a really good thing. If we never sit down and write ideas out, it can be really hard to anticipate where they are going. Maybe they only lead to bad places, silly situations, ludicrous prose. The sooner you do THIS bit of bad writing, the sooner you can walk away from it!

And number three, maybe it’s just a bad idea. You know how, as a kid, you would sometimes have an idea, get started with doing it and then, halfway through go, “Oh dear! This is a really bad idea!” Luckily an adult was generally on hand to get you out the tree, or off the roof or to put the fire out.

Being creative is sometimes like being that child again. You don’t really know how good an idea is until you start working with it or try it on for size. If it turns out to be one of those stuck up a tree bad ideas, great! Now you can stop thinking about it, now you can move on. You can make some room in the junk store of your mind for other, hopefully better ideas.

It’s important to accept that you will write badly sometimes. You need to understand that you CAN and sometimes MUST kill your creative babies. Don’t spend decade nursing a bad idea into life just because you can’t accept that maybe this whole premise just doesn’t work. If you allow that sometimes you just come up with bad ideas, or write badly, it’s easier to walk away from things that are not working or that are just plain BAD.

And sometimes, just sometimes, you’ll come back one day and you’ll go… OH! That was silly, if I just change this little thing here, then it all works… And then you have a ready-made thing there, that just needs a tweak and you can run with it.

Accept that bad writing is good too. Keep it, don’t throw it away. Your rejects pile can also be a major source of inspiration further down the line. If you’ve thrown it all away, you run a real risk of just repeating that same mistakes and the same bad ideas.