Gift Ideas for the Bad Writer
The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in shockproof shit-detector.
Since May this year, I have spent some portion of every day writing something. A cracked poem, some loopy dialogue, a journal entry that says over and over and over one word scribbly pencil: Breathe.
(That’s as close as you can get to yoga without actually having to do yoga. Also, licking the wheels of a lawn mower is also the equivalent of downing a shot of wheat grass.)
It’s all writing. And it makes a difference. The act of writing something down on paper has a profound effect on how my brain engages with language for the rest of the day. I don’t care how bad the writing is, you have to write that shit in order to ever have any hope of getting one kernel of beauty in a manuscript later down the road.
Last week I was working on one of my new plays, rewriting pages into the wee hours. I had a deadline looming. I stayed up til 2am writing pages and pages of new dialogue, witty and emotionally deep with tons of story-propelling momentum and cool hurky-derky words. I thought. I woke up the next morning and read over what I’d so painstakingly scribbled the night before:
Garbage, my friends. Not even worthy of the deleted scenes reel. Utter trash.
I was grateful I hadn’t hit the send button the night before. No one needs to see that.
Hey, bad writing happens. No, that’s not right. Bad writing needs to happen. Now it’s a week later, and suddenly one line of all that nonsense I wrote is rising into the sky and can be seen for miles for what it really was trying to be, even by me, the myopic playwright. One line out of pages and pages of writing. Totally worth it!
And since I’m pulling inspirational quotes about what you need to do to be a writer, here’s my favorite from Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild:
Writing is hard for every last one of us—straight white men included. Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig. You need to do the same. … So write… Not like a girl. Not like a boy. Write like a motherfucker.