Monday, March 23, 2009

The Writing Week (Vol. 2) part 64 - Write Badly, It's Good for You

When I was a freshman in NYU’s Dramatic Writing program, my professor said something that was both surprising and enlightening. One of the assignments he used to give, which we weren’t fortunate enough to have time to do, was to write as bad a short script as possible. His theory: setting out to write badly often produced the best work to date, because none of the concerns about turning out a masterpiece are present. The writing becomes unrestrained.

Think about it for a second; it actually makes sense. All too often, I find myself hesitant to put words on the page, lest they be any less than perfect. Writing a first draft is as much about trying to just get the story out as it is about writing a good script, maybe more so. Yet, when I work on drafts, I find it all too easy to obsess about every little detail and derail the writing process, allowing myself to get stuck on small scenes that will probably get cut anyway. I don’t like having to do extensive rewrites, but perhaps it’s best to not set out to write gold every time.

I’m trying the “Write Badly” approach right now. OK, I’m not actively setting out to write a terrible script that could never see a production. What I mean, though, is that I’ve discarded the heavy weights of perfection in favor of a fun, carefree write that will require rewrites later, but will keep me actively working on something now. I’m in between drafts of my Roman army spec and awaiting notes on my post-Apocalyptic spec. I didn’t want to start a new action spec, for fear of triple-stacking myself in that genre right now, which could lead to a blending of projects. Like any committed writer, though, I didn’t want to just sit idly by or allow myself to fall into a slump for lack of projects.

The solution was simple: write the high school comedy I’d been toying with, with no real commitment to quality yet. I needed a cool down period in between projects, but had to keep the muscles moving. Sort of like slowing to a jog or a fast walk between sprints, I wanted to keep exercising, but focus more on maintaining a work ethic than really diving into something serious right now. And I’ll tell you this, I’m really enjoying it. I almost feel like I’m cheating when I come home, write for an hour, and have five coherent pages of something I’m not 100% serious about right now. I’m writing, but it also feels like a break from writing. If you’re stuck in a rut or taking a step back from one project before diving into rewrites or another major project, yet you want to keep active, then maybe this is right for you. Write “badly;” you might like it.


Christopher :o said...

I really dig this notion. Great post!

Cake Man said...

Thanks, Christopher. It's an approach that's at least worth a try. I've found it to be great recently.