Thursday, January 13, 2011

Don't Hate on Bad Books

We’ve all done it. We read a book that is shocking in its awfulness, and we ask, “How on earth did this ever get published?” Many of us go on to say, “How could they publish a book as awful as this, and not publish mine? My book is so much better.”

I’m not as bothered by poor quality writing as you might think. Why?

  • If a person has a fantastic idea but doesn’t have talent to express it, should that idea be thrown in the trash, or should it be expressed anyway?
  • People don't read as much as they used to. Whenever people read a book, they support the industry. If they like the book, they’re more likely to read another book. That’s a victory for all of us.
  • A book only gets published if it speaks to someone. A book only becomes a bestseller if it speaks to a lot of people. You can argue that the public has terrible taste (and sometimes it’s true), but when all is said and done, isn’t resonating with others the whole point of writing? 
  • When you discover why a bad book is read anyway, you might discover a little kernel of truth you can use in your own writing.
  • Writing should be a dynamic community of people swapping ideas. It’s not static and exclusive. That makes it more fun, free, and meaningful.
  • We think our own books are better than the ones we read, but we can’t always see our faults. We should be humble enough to accept that maybe our books aren’t as good as the ones we criticize.
  • Art is a dynamic quest to find what is meaningful. Whenever you read a book and say, “That is bad,” you are contributing to the progress of art. That’s kind of exciting.
  • People often complain that writing isn’t as it used to be. Few of us consider that we only still read maybe a dozen books from each time period. In the past, there were probably just as many crappy books on the shelves as there are today.
  • This is a quote you will hear me say over and over: "The world would be a quiet place if only the best birds sang." We should never tell someone to stop writing. Even if they really do suck.


  1. Hehe, I like your last line. ;)

    Anyway, the fact that bad writing gets published encourages me - if they can do it, surely I can!

  2. You are right! I've said the same thing before about writing, about "bad" books, or any kind of art in fact, movies, music, whatever it is.

    There's no such thing as "a waste of my time". However bad an experience may be, however boring or painful or painfully boring, helped me "refine" my tastes. At the very least, it helped me identify what I like or don't like.

    In all cases, Respect is a must. Respect for the people involved in the creation of any one of these experiences, respect for their efforts, successful or not.

    If they were bad at their craft, and they "wasted your time", writer, film-maker, actor, musician, at least you were a part of their creative and/or emotional growth.

    And to contribute to someone else's growth is never a waste of time.


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