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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bad writing and why it's good

I am a creativity yenta. I’m obsessed with getting pretty much everyone[1] on the planet to achieve their full potential. I had to remind myself of this when I was reading the most recent edition of The New York Review of Books, which, like every other magazine in the world, is desperately, piteously broke. So broke as a joke, that they now have pages upon pages of ads by self-publishing companies, advertising the self-published books. If you, like me, are a devotee of bad writing, then you will find that the blurbs for these books are addictive[2].

I can spend hours reading bizarre, incomprehensible blurbs, such as: ‘When Virginia moves to a small town to start over, she is intrigued by a nearby mansion. When her curiosity sends her to investigate, she is captured and made prisoner by a deadly vampire and his companions.’ Deadly vampire as opposed to a fun-loving vampire? Oy. Or: ‘Step inside the mind of a pensive writer as the author, simply known as 11, opens his heart and soul and boldly shares his thoughts on life, society, fate and religion in this stirring book.’  Don’t get me started on how much I love, love, love it that the author calls himself ’11.’ Prince, if he wasn’t busy riding the bus in Minneapolis, would be jealous. Or the one about the woman who learned life lessons from her eleven poodles. Or, the one about the man who had to live his entire life to understand what his mom meant when she said, on her death-bed, that “someday you will cry.” Okay, mom.

I can spend hours reading these blurbs, and—depending on how deep is my determination on any given day to procrastinate—reading excerpts from the books[3].  

Some of you, I know, are pretty sure I am all that is evil in the world; a malicious, mean-spirited girl with a heart two-sizes-too-small. You presume that I ride a broomstick. (Don’t say that like it’s a bad thing.) I promise though: as much evil glee as I get from reading really, really bad writing… on another level, I have unbelievable respect for these men and women. Because they did it: they wrote the books they had inside of them. They fought a battle with themselves…and won.  They did it: it’s just that simple. Unlike many people who have great ideas for books, operas, businesses, trips, whatever and just talk endlessly, without ever doing the hard work, the exhausting work of creation, these people sat down and wrote the damn books. Respect. In fact, I have more respect for these people, than I have for the most talented writer in the world, who just talks about his or her idea endlessly, but keeps waiting for it to be perfect before committing it to paper.  Life isn’t about perfection; life is about doing the best you can with what you know at any given time, learning from your mistakes, and rinse and repeat.

And I know what I’m taking about. I have a new play, that I’ve been “revising” for months. It’s done. I’m very, very pleased with it. My agent is impatiently waiting for me to give her the script so we can start getting it into production….and that’s terrifying. My new play is my baby and the idea of strangers paying money to go into a theater and watch it is both exhilarating and makes me want to take a bath in vodka[4].
So, I may delight in these self-published authors’ purple prose…but I also know how much courage it took to do what they did. [5] And I hope they keep on keeping on. Because life isn’t about just doing the hard thing once…it’s about understanding that through doing the hard, frightening things, we discover the very best of ourselves.

That said, I still don’t need to read about how ‘Roberto Buran, heir to a millionaire fortune, becomes the victim of a malicious plan when he finds himself facing a woman’s claim for the subsidiary rights of a baby conceived with his sperm.’

No.  No, I do not.

[1] I’m qualifying this statement because there are some forms of potential which I cannot approve of. Doo-wop, for example. That The Girl Who was Seriously Annoying and Poorly Written or whatever that series is. Yes, I know, it’s made a bajillion dollars and yes, you are correct: I am jealous.
[2] That sounds mean, right? Life’s hard. Get over it.
[3] 'Why would the latch not move? I got my answer as I drew in a whiff of the aged rustiness of the metal. “There is no use, my dear Virginia. This door has not been used for years. The latch is quite rusty. I have no need of this gate. There is no escape for you here!” It was a voice that sent unadulterated terror through my veins. It was his voice.'
[4] Note to self.
[5] And the play’s at the printer right now, so simma down. 

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