Sunday, December 12, 2010

"Bad Writing" the movie, and the reason I will always write *something*

There is a new documentary that was released on Friday in "select cities."  It is called "Bad Writing," and it is done by a guy who wrote poetry only to "discover" he was really, really "bad" at it.  I will post the video trailer below along with a link to the site, should you wish to check it out.

I have *not* seen the movie, as it is no where near me.  Well, okay, technically, Austin is "close" should I wish to drive 8 hours or whatever. Which I don't.  I have seen the trailer and I get the general premise of the movie. I have seen the guy sit in front of other authors and have them laugh at his work and tell him how awful it is.  I see some of the humor in it. With that limited ammunition at my disposal, I offer up my take on "good," "bad," and "ugly" writing - though this applies to any art, really.

First and foremost, I abhor terminology such as "good" or "bad" when applied to anything artistic.  Who the heck is ANYONE to sit in judgment as to what I write is good or what I paint is bad or what I sculpt is ugly?  During the trailer, one author says something to the effect that we are not writing for ourselves.  I say BALONEY.  In a class, we are judged by what is expected within the specifications of the project - a poem, a short story, an impressionistic-style painting, etc.  This is not really about that - the classroom tends to be a different environment, though some of this should still apply.  After all, in my opinion, no professor or teacher should demolish the dreams of his/her students based on that teacher's own opinions.

I write because I like it.  I write what I want because it is my way of expressing my feelings and thoughts in a way that I choose to do so.  Frankly, I don't really care if I am the only person on Earth that enjoys it or is touched by it or understands it.  I believe everyone that creates should keep that perspective.

There are a gazillion people that love to sit on high thrones in high places and look down upon those who live beneath them.  The thing to remember is that many times, we are the ones who put those people up there in the first place.  Let's not do that anymore.  Seriously.  Think about those you hold in high regard.  How did they get that standing in your world?  Do they DESERVE that standing?  Most likely, they deserve at least SOME of the accolades we place upon them.  There is nothing wrong with appreciating fellow artisans!  The danger, I believe, comes from holding those same folks to such a high level that we compare ourselves to them and seek acceptance based on their accomplishments.

Maybe it is the nature of those who create to seek approval and acceptance from others. I dunno.  All I know is that I find it ridiculous that certain people are lifted on high while others are beaten down into nothingness.  What makes it even worse is when someone had been beaten down, ultimately took their own life, and then AFTERWARD are heralded as "amazing, incredible" after they are dead.  Ludicrous.

As a writer, I have created many things that *I* think are awful.  I'll write something, leave it for a while and then come back to it only to read it and think, "Man, that is just stupid."  That is my opinion about my own work.  At that point, I can edit it or trash it.  Either way, it is my decision based on my own reaction.  If I write something that I enjoy reading again later, then I file that in my works that might become part of a collection some day.  That decision is based on my personal preference and whether or not it fits into the flow of the stories already going in the collection.

Now, you may be sitting there wondering how I, of all people, have the gall to approach such subjects and why anyone should even pay attention to what I have to say.  You'd be right to wonder.  I can only hope I am reaching one person (okay, reaching more than one would be great) that may be struggling with "acceptance" of their work.  I say - quit worrying about it and judge yourself FOR yourself.

Now, does that mean we cannot improve on our work?  Absolutely not!  We can take classes, watch videos, examine other specimens of the things we'd like to create.  Everyone can always get better (in their own heart and mind) at what they do.  This is especially true if we see things in our creativity that we'd like to change or we'd like to improve upon.  For example, if you are a painter and do not like the way you paint faces, then you can take classes or watch videos that will help you paint faces in a way that you prefer.  As a writer, I find the information I read and the classes I've taken (and will take) extremely valuable as I continue to write.  I've learned about various plot ideas, character interactions, etc that I might not have otherwise considered while writing my own stories.  Likewise, reading those you admire can help you get a feel for how they write - what are common themes, objects, colors, places, etc?  How can you then apply those things in your creative ventures?

I write song lyrics and poems in addition to my stories.  I enjoy some of them and others I simply shake my head when I go back and read them again.  I have submitted numerous stories, songs, etc to a variety of contests, publishers, etc.  I have never won a thing.  Does that keep me from writing?  Nope.  Does it mean I am a "bad" writer?  I am in the eyes of the judges, maybe.  Or, perhaps others were just "better" than me.  Really, what governs that decision is what appeals to those judges.  Maybe what I write does not appeal to them.  Okay by me.  I just keep writing anyway.

Think about the folks that have ever told you that you were "bad" at what you do.  What reasons do you have for letting those folks influence you?  Write them down. Really.  Seeing the "why" in back-and-white may just help you realize that YOU are in control of what is "good" or "bad."  Always remember that you judge others, too.  We all do.  We have things we like and things we don't.  Are those folks going to quit creating because *we* don't like something? No.  If JK Rowling asked me to comment about the "Harry Potter" series, she would not be happy with what I have to say.  I am not a fan.  Would that stop her from writing?  I surely hope not.

I believe we SHOULD write for ourselves.  Write what we like.  Write HOW we like.  If others happen to enjoy it as well, that's great.  If what we create reaches *us* on a personal, emotional level and gives us the release *we* need, then we are creating something "good."  And, if we are the only ones that enjoy our work, that should be enough for us.  Who is anyone else to judge what I have residing inside us? No one on this Earth.

Here is the trailer:

The mistake I made with "Summer Breaks"

When I published my novel, I took the easy, short-sighted approach.  That is, I published the book.  There is nothing wrong with that in and of itself.  If you are a writer looking to publish something just to have it published, then taking the path of least involvement is perfectly fine.  For, that route is the "Marketplace" one.  You get a serial number on your book, and you get to do all your own promotion and distribution.  There is nothing wrong with that.

In fact, that is the route I one I chose for my first collection of short stories (always assuming there will be more of those).  My main goal was "to be a published author."  When I wrote "Summer Breaks," my initial intention was to just put it out there.  That quickly grew into a desire for more. I created various ePub formats and found a variety of distribution channels for the electronic version.  That, in turn, led to Kindle-specific versions and going through the iBookstore steps via

When I published "Summer Breaks" initially, I took the same route as I had with "All This Digging."  And now, I realize I am bit by the bug.  The distribution bug, that is.  So, now I have to fix this in two ways.  First, I have to create a new project and select "Lulu-created ISBN" (I'll explain in a minute) and then I have to change my novel's format from its current "Digest" format to "US Trade, 6x9" format to fulfill the requirements of that distribution package.

My suggestion?  If you are going to self-publish, START with that site's ISBN offering and work from there.  Even if you only expect your family and friends to be the primary buyers, it'll provide a wider audience for your work.

Now, let's talk about getting your own ISBN versus the on-demand publisher's ISBN. You can pay a chunk of change and get an ISBN for your book and have it registered in your own name (or the name of a publishing company you make up, for that matter).  Many POD's also let you create an ISBN in THEIR name (usually for free).  What's the difference?  Well, I found a site that explains it better than I can, so here is more info (below) that basically says, "Get the free one from your POD and save your money!"  That's what I'm talking about!

BookLocker Guide to POD and ISBN:

Now... off to create a new version of my novel *with* an ISBN...