By Reagan Ramm
“Bad isn’t bad. Sometimes bad is good.” – Daniel Schwabauer.
I hear it all the time: “My writing is terrible!”
Almost every beginning writer thinks that their writing is an abomination at one point or another. I’m sure you’ve expressed such sentiments about your own writing before, or perhaps you’ve talked to a writing friend who has lamented over the sad state of their literary work. While I believe some writers do this in order to fish for complements, many really are in despair about the quality of their writing, and for good reason, or so they think.
It’s disheartening when you think about how much of your time, effort, and soul you’ve poured into your writing only to come to the conclusion that it isn’t very good. To give up all the blood, sweat, and tears and not see the results is one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever experienced. It can even be enough to make you quit writing completely.
I recently returned from the One Year Adventure Novel summer writing workshop in Kansas, and while all of the sessions were incredible, the one that stood out most to me was the last session. During this session, Mr. S said the profound words which I have quoted above, “Bad isn’t bad. Sometimes bad is good.” Mr. Schwabauer specifically asked us not to post this quote by him on the internet, but I couldn’t resist.
Of course, the context of that sentence is what is most important. Mr. S wasn’t talking ethics, he was talking writing. I wish all of you could have listened to the entirety of his talk, but you will have to settle for my meager summary.
Mr. S began by explaining how “Creating” and “Analyzing” happen separately. During creation, God first created, and then analyzed, concluding that His creation was “good”. This was God, though. Of course His creation was going to be good. Still, Mr. S insisted, this was the method God used. Perhaps we should try it on for size. We have to let ourselves create, first. We can’t be concerned about whether or not it’s “good” or “bad”. The mere act of creating is good, because it is helping us improve and we are using the creativity God blessed us with.
“Creativity is impossible when wrong or bad aren’t options,” Mr. S continued. It can be utterly paralyzing to sit down to write and then realize that whatever you type is going to be “wrong” or “bad”. “What’s the point?” you might think. Thus, you sit staring at a blank word document, cursor blinking impatiently, until you finally give up.
“Creativity requires risk, and risk sometimes means failure. You have to create bad things before you can create good things.” Thus, creating something “bad” is actually very worthwhile! You have to get all of your bad stuff out of the way before you can be good. Not writing is the worst thing you could do, because you can’t get any better unless you practice. You’re just delaying yourself from becoming good. You’re prolonging your time as a “bad” writer.
In the writing world, many versions of a quote are frequently circulated, though who originally said it has been disputed. The quote goes something along the lines of:
“Your first million words don’t count – Be prepared to throw them in the trash.”
I’ve only written about 500,000 words. Does that mean everything I’ve ever written has been terrible and a waste of time? Not at all! My writing may not be very good, but that’s okay because no writing is wasted. Everything you write makes you better, and brings you closer to perfection. First you have to make it real. You have to put your writing on “paper”, and then you make it good later. “Bad isn’t bad. Sometimes bad is good.”
But don’t stay bad. Technical excellence matters. Your writing will help someone, even if it’s only you. Writing will help refine your thought process and skill. It can even improve your relationship with God, and God can use your own writing to talk to you. Creating is a god-like act.
Keep writing; keep improving. Let yourself be bad so you can become good. Don’t give up. Be excited. Bad is good.