Embrace the garbage and you will be a better writer
I have seen a sentiment espoused by some writers and creators – you should not waste your time on stuff you don’t enjoy or just garbage writing. Life is too short.
I emphatically disagree.
When it comes to reading, writing and creating, you should absolutely read/write/create absolute garbage. Anyone who says you should put stuff aside, I genuinely feel is missing opportunities and being unhelpful to creatives.
A lot of people have talked about their defense of trash, but I’m going to ignore them right now.
I’m just gonna talk about the ways in which it has helped me.
I’ve read vampire books where horribly exploitative sexual violence happened each chapter and was committed by the point-of-view character. I’ve read space operas that begin with ten pages of worldbuilding. I’ve read books with almost negative review scores. I’ve read 1930s pulp stories and 1970s shlock movies. Every single one of them made me a better writer either by showing me a good idea done poorly or showing me precisely what to avoid.
Why? Because every book makes you a better writer.
Someone said you can read trash stuff, but you’re allowed to put them down. Yeah, your allowed. You’re allowed to do whatever you want. You learn a lot by reading trash books to the end. What’s the goddamn point of starting it if you won’t finish it?!
Maybe they pull an incredible ending out of their ass? Maybe they have a couple good ideas that you can take inspiration from? Maybe they have a bad beginning and a good end? You won’t know unless you finish it.
Everything you experience changes you (So says our lord and savior Octavia E. Butler). Read the damn bad books, watch terrible movies and love them for all their horrible flaws, problematic storytelling and bad writing.
They will teach you.
I often watch Netflix’s revival of Mystery Science Theater 3000, a show who’s entire ethos is about watching awful movies and finding some value in them. It’s a great. It’s a way to watch trash and make it more palatable. Watch the garbage movies on Netflix, watch the trash shows on Crave, scoop of schlock from the $1 bin.
Yeah, Life is short. No matter what you do there will ALWAYS be another great piece of work you missed out on. It is impossible to watch and experience everything. Then why waste time on trash? If you are a creative, you HAVE to see the bad stuff. It is a better teacher.
Stephen King writes in On Writing that there are few things more encouraging than a writer reading a book and saying, “I can write better than this. Hell, I am writing better than this!”
That’s why you should read/watch trash.
You should also write trash.
One of the greatest pieces of creative advice EVER is; “Give yourself permission to write garbage.”
When you free yourself from your own expectations/social expectation that is how you break through the wall.
I’ve seen the sentiment discussed about when to know when to set a project aside. I am conflicted about this for a variety of reasons. I agree to some points, you can’t waste your life on a book that won’t work. You have to be able to tell yourself “Let it go.” You can’t prescribe this. It is IMPOSSIBLE to know when a story is truly broken beyond some deep internal understanding of the creator. Do what you want. I can’t tell you what to do.
But there is a president for forcing yourself to finish things.
Like this amazing quote from Ira Glass.
Others have had similar sentiments.
“The best hygiene for beginning writers or intermediate writers is to write a hell of a lot of short stories. If you can write one short story a week—it doesn’t matter what the quality is to start, but at least you’re practicing, and at the end of the year you have 52 short stories, and I defy you to write 52 bad ones. Can’t be done. At the end of 30 weeks or 40 weeks or at the end of the year, all of a sudden a story will come that’s just wonderful.”–Ray Bradbury
“So when people come to me and they say “I want to be a writer. What should I do.” I say, you have to write. Sometimes they say, “Well I’m already doing that.” I say, you have to finish things. That’s what you learn from. You learn by finishing things.”
So finish the fucking thing.
I feel that the positivist mentality I’ve seen amongst writers leaves too much permission for writers to give up on projects. To set things aside. To give up. To abandon their dreams. No. Go finish things. You learn by finishing things. ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY ARE BAD.
It’s important that we as a #writerscommunity be positive and uplifting to each other, but this needs to be balanced with a tough love mentality. While others are telling you what you need to hear for your own mental health sake, I’m going to be the insufferable little brother. I do it because I love you and want you to do better. There is room enough for all of us and some of us need both a hug and some of us need a kick in the ass to get going.
Hate me if you want but finish the fucking story.
Especially when it’s bad.
You never seen a gymnast do a routine then just refuse to land. They may not “Stick the landing” but they landed one way or another.
You learn by finishing. You learn by writing trash. You learn by doing it over and over again. It’s really not about the quality of the words you put down. It’s that you put it down and persevered to finish this. Then you will learn to create better art
My final big point of this for both writing and watching trash is. If you read/watch some one else’s trash. It gives you permission to make your own trash. This frees you.
You know what to do.
P.S. I am leaving for a trip to Montreal. I am not planning my return and I will be exploring job options away from home. I will write a half-dozen blogs to be set for each week. Or at least I’m going to try.