Writing Intentionally Bad Literature

Source: pixabay

I am the lead singer in a band that primarily performs covers of our favorite weird songs from the 70s to the early 00s. However, we are working on building a catalog of originals. In the past year we have only completed two songs and have the beginnings of two others. I’ve provided absolutely zero lyrics. I’ve never written a song in my life and when I sit down with the band (all musicians with more experience than me) I clam up, only able to hum along to the rhythm of the guitars.

Last week we were at an open mic when my lead guitarist, a bit loosened up by alcohol, said to me, “I don’t understand how someone like you can have such a way with words but can’t write lyrics.” We whittled down the possible reasons for this to two:

  1. I had never written with a group of people before
  2. Even on my own, my anxiety and self-doubt make me crush every lyric idea I have

He offered a solution: “Let’s sit together with the band and some beers and write some really bad songs. Like, intentionally awful garbage. Once that’s out of our systems, we can try taking the process more seriously.”

We haven’t tried this yet, but I think that it is a brilliant idea, so much that I am applying it to my fiction writing. Right now, in a period of stress, mourning, financial struggle and self-doubt, I am taking a break and writing a bad novel.

When I say bad, I mean so awful that I am typing it in Comic Sans. Within a half hour I outlined a few characters and three rough acts. There is currently no resolution. The plot itself is the equivalent of taking features of the worst Adult Swim live action shows you’ve ever watched and mixing them in a grab bag with a bunch of Harlequin novel tropes. Much of it is free-writing and rambling squished into a semblance of a plot. And I love it. It is my baby, and I’ll probably finish the rough draft by the end of the month, if not sooner.

I have written intentionally bad pieces before: for fun, mainly, and sometimes to show my displeasure with a classroom writing assignment. Most have been short stories or poems. These were also unintentionally good exercises in free-writing, especially with poetry. I was able to get all the cliches and bad rhymes out of my head before writing something more creative and substantial. This novel is a bit different; while I think that it will have a similar cobweb-clearing effect, it is also making me happy. I am writing an intensely personal yet goofy mess, and it feels quite special to me.

After this experience, I will never dismiss the therapeutic value of writing intentionally bad work. I may not finish other personal writing projects this month, but I’ll have a complete novel that should be as fun to read as it is to write.

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