January 4, 2013

What Is Bad Writing?

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What is the issue?

The movie Bad Writing, a well-reviewed documentary about the craft/art/thing that is writing, is streaming for free on Vimeo. The doc includes interviews with such well-known authors as George Saunders, Margaret Atwood, and David Sedaris. Vernon Lott, the filmmaker, was inspired to make the documentary when he came across some poems from his younger days, when he wanted to be a writer.

Some questions I had while watching it: Why do so many people want to write when people are statistically reading less, “all the good books have already been written,” literature is a marginalized artform, etc? Do you prefer to approach writing as a craft, a vehicle for expression, or as an artform?

It’s difficult for the interviewees to describe bad writing — it seems to be a case of “you know it when you see it.” I took part in several disappointing creative writing workshops in college. Maybe because there was prescriptive discussion of writing in those classes that didn’t appeal to me, I feel an aversion to the idea that “good writing” or “a good story” are stable concepts that can be certified. But I think humans aren’t very good at resisting the creation of hierarchies and criteria for judgment. And I felt encouraged watching this. TC mark

image – Shutterstock
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