Monday, September 24, 2012

Poetry Writing Tip #18: Discovering the Joy of Writing Badly

“Let me live, love and say it well in good sentences.” 

Sylvia Plath

Yes, Sylvia Plath was a wise and tragic figure in literature. She wanted to live. She did and then she didn’t. She wanted to love. She did so until the end. She wanted to say it well in good sentences. She did until she stopped writing sentences when her life ended.

Is it maudlin to say I wonder what the world would have been like if Sylvia (and others) had the courage to write badly every now and then?

Take a moment to hold this question lightly with your mind. Let it float around you, not getting tossed aside, but let it be: “What would my writing life be like if I had the courage to write badly when no decent words are flowing?”

Julia Cameron, when speaking of “writing work” wrote, “In order to write freely, we must be willing to write badly.” 

Write badly. 

Write badly?

Write badly!

TIP #18: Take five minutes out of your “seriously good” writing to create some playfully bad, absolutely awful writing. Imagine yourself a silent screen star writer: you know – way overdoing, huge bulging eyes, organ music so melodramatic the viewer has no doubt something bad is about to happen. Do that with your words.”

Here is a silent from 1917 that is full of images and by today's standards, horrible acting. You might want to mimic the acting with a purposefully bad poem. Check it out:

Even more ideas  from an article I wrote a couple years ago: 

Learn the joy of writing VERY badly on purpose. This may be completely contrary and if so, let’s celebrate. How about writing badly just for fun?  Overwrite, underwrite, write in text language, write in a single run on sentence. Write like a pompous, overinflated egotist. Write in the tiniest letters like a frightened sea-nymph on crack. You may find your best writing ever comes as a result.

Learn and embrace this principle of hitting the page and adding words to the page as a writing practice will allow you to become a far more productive writer. Just write, even gobbledy gook.

You may even give yourself some prompts about gobbledy gook. 

Here are a couple bad writing prompts.:

When I write a page of gobbledy gook, it looks like...

When I devote myself to writing badly - even gobbledy gook - I remember....

When I was a kid and got a paper back with red marks all over it, I got sick to my stomach. What would have happened if I took those red marks and made the supposed "bad writing" into "really bad writing?" Just for fun, I am going to WRITE BADLY about my summer vacation....(or trip to the fair, or afternoon apple picking....)

You may even make art from writing badly. It is possible! 

Then there is always a debate: Is there such a thing as a bad poem?

Read the debate on Yahoo Answers and then comment over here. What do you think?

Finally - a college course shows examples of taking bad writing and revising it into respectable writing. Check it out for ideas, perhaps even plucking words and phrases as beginning points for new poems.

Have you added your blog to the linky? This is how we will meet, greet and encourage one another throughout OctPoWriMo. Head over and register now.


  1. Great posting! Giving yourself permission to be horrible can be a very liberating thing; too often in our quest to be poetic and relevant we stifle our own creativity.

    1. Thank you Mary for your wonderful words and for stopping by to see us! Yes it is wonderfully freeing when we can come to the page without expectations and just write.

      Peace to you,

  2. My favorite [philosophy] professor and I were disccussing OctPoWriMo a few days ago, and he said that William Stafford did something similar, but for years - a poem every day, no matter how much it sucked. ♥

    1. Thank you Shai for sharing some of your conversation with your professor. I believe it is getting the words down whatever they may be that is most important. If we came to the page expecting greatness every time that is a sure fire way to shut down our creativity.

      Thanks so much for stopping by!