11 Reasons Why Everyone Should Be The Worst Writer They Know

11 Reasons Why Everyone Should Be The Worst Writer They Know

I very nearly didn’t get to post a blog this week, because I almost died of shame. Shame is a very poor thing to die of: possibly better than getting run over by the bus to Limerick, but not great, all the same.

My shame stemmed from a journal I wrote, when I was learning how to write. This journal has lived in the locker beside my bed for months, possibly even years. I was forced to excavate this journal the other day due to a series of incidents involving the wrong restaurant, a motorised scooter, new bed linen, and unemployment. You know, the usual reasons for clearing out your drawers.

Anyway, This All Resulted In Me Thinking A Thought

The journal itself is beautiful. Hard-backed, with a picture of Shakespeare on the front. It has a ribbon bookmark and the paper is silky-smooth to the touch. Writing on it feels like piping exquisitely tiny icing onto a cake.

I obviously had extremely lofty ideas for this journal, or else I would not have purchased a hardback notebook with a picture of Shakespeare on the front. I believe I chose it because I thought writing on silky-smooth paper with yer man on the front would make the contents of my head simultaneously lofty and Shakespearian.

Well, it didn’t.

The reason it’s been lurking, unread, for ten years or so, is because I suspected that problems lay within. That it could not be disposed of without care. That I might need to go through it with a scalpel, in order to sever each and every page from its bindings and fling them on the fire.

I was right. Reading it was more nauseating than reading Twilight fan fiction. More embarrassing than an Irish daytime TV show. More painful than having the soles of your feet branded with the text of every sex scene from Fifty Shades Of Grey.

Here are some painful examples, which I most probably thought were quite cool at the time.

1. “If a chain of events was kicked off by a series of white lies to justify the latest Kit-Kat complex, then I’m just plain lucky”

(I have no idea what a Kit-Kat complex is. Do you? Do 4 of them come together? Can they be nibbled around the edges?)

2. “I chewed some cow and then had a mouth-disappearingly addictive crème caramel”

(Can we all just take a moment to be thankful I never became a restaurant critic?)

3. “So we, Greek chorus, muster up our energy for our country and to partake in the triumph of our country’s wit”

(Repetition of ‘country’ aside, I’m pretty sure this sentence breaks international grammar laws.)

4. “I was talking to her about how much I qualify my qualifications”

(Whoever she was, I’m pretty sure she’s no longer talking to me.)

5. “Call up the troops, chin and helmet up, find the troops, start at the beginning”

(So I called them but couldn’t find them… or was it that they didn’t recognise me with my helmet up? Where was my chin? Should I have found the troops before I called them? My head hurts.)

6. “Under pressure the words galvanised themselves into structural battle lines and it all came out to make sense”

(Unlike this sentence. More pressure required. Hypergravity perhaps.)

7. “a place rich in history of the best kind, subversive in its time, but grown fat over years of proximity to abundance”

(I don’t remember putting in for Arsehole Of The Year Award. Not since I grew out of my 20s, anyway.)

8. “This is getting very chronological and pappy”

(A chronological journal. Wow. What’s next? An orange orange?)

9. “And yet I deleted so many things that used to be so important even in knowing that they existed”

(And yet I kept this. Why? WHY????)

10. “Or the middle ground that’s been in existence for however long people had words and music to put them to or forget through”

(I don’t know about you, but I had to lie down after I read this.)

11. “the rain hit all the windows flat like a bullet”

(Yes. Because bullets are renowned for their flatness. Ask any meteorologist)

Sigh.

And that was all from just one month. From this we can agree the following:

  • It is possible to make the passive voice sound diseased
  • Overwrought, overwritten prose is the best way of obscuring any meaning whatsoever from text
  • We’re never more stupid than when we’re trying to be clever

Even though none of this stuff was for public consumption, it looks like I was trying to write in code. Now even I can’t even understand that code. It’s probably just as well.

Accounts of funny things which actually happened were also devoid of entertainment value. They read like one of those letters you got back in school or college from that one person you most definitely never wanted to get a letter from. At the time I thought they were some of the best writing in the journal.

11 Reasons Why Everyone Should Be The Worst Writer They Know

But writing so badly taught me several things. It taught me that I was not ready to publish. It taught me it was best I didn’t write about myself, and that I had a long way to go before I could even contemplate starting a blog. I’m very grateful that I learned this in the privacy of a journal, instead of in the public domain.

The last entry in this blogawful crime against paper was a rundown of some character and plot ideas for the first novel I would come to write. It seems as soon as I started that, the nonsense stopped. Would the novel have happened without getting the nonsense out first, though?

There Is A Point In Here Somewhere

I’ve come to believe that in order to be the best writer you can be, you need to be terrible first. The measure of a good writer might be the stuff you never see.

If I’ve found my voice now, it’s because I spent years writing in the wrong one. Blogging can be a good way to do this, but I’m not sure it’s always the best way to learn how to write. Perhaps we need to be nearing the finish line before we publish what’s in our heads.

The internet can be very unforgiving, and if I had published the contents of that journal online, I don’t think I’d be writing today. Because I’d be dead of the shame. Or possibly keeping an eye out for the Limerick bus.

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  93 comments for “11 Reasons Why Everyone Should Be The Worst Writer They Know

  1. October 10, 2017 at 9:05 am

    Reblogged this on anita dawes and jaye marie.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. October 10, 2017 at 9:07 am

    Maybe we should never look back and read our previous work? Every time I do, I cringe… and that’s not a good sign, is it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 10, 2017 at 11:54 am

      A sign that you’re human? I beg to differ. If only more writers took heed of such signs!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. October 10, 2017 at 9:33 am

    In your case, Tara, that would be a difficult ambition to fulfil.

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 10, 2017 at 11:54 am

      You’re too kind, John. I mean it. FAR too kind. Such kindness can often lead to even worser writing.

      Like

  4. October 10, 2017 at 10:19 am

    I also have a few ‘wonderous’ journals. I must dust them down, for a giggle 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 10, 2017 at 11:54 am

      I wish you all of the giggles and none of the cringe!!

      Like

  5. October 10, 2017 at 10:21 am

    Wow. I’m kind of glad I didn’t write anything in my teens that I can cringe about now.
    Oh, wait… https://babbitman.wordpress.com/2014/10/02/embarrassing-teenage-poetry/
    It’s like when we’re young and starting to get creative with writing we concentrate on clever Words and awesome Thoughts and how Deep things are. And then eventually we remember Story, Sense and Structure.
    Don’t worry – we’ve all been there. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • October 10, 2017 at 12:03 pm

      Good grief, my babbity friend. Can I just point out that you said “And lo”?! I’m not horrified, though. Just oddly reassured. We could form a support group?

      Liked by 1 person

      • October 10, 2017 at 12:59 pm

        I know. Jeez. The things we thought were right on & awesome, eh?
        Perhaps we could have a strapline for the support group that reads: “What the *!@# were we like?”

        Liked by 1 person

  6. October 10, 2017 at 10:49 am

    I re-read my stuff all the time, part of repeating my actions all the time (like watching old TV shows and movies, rereading classic books, telling the identical jokes for decades). I keep practicing and expecting, um, something that also starts with “p”. Still practicing…
    But after those initial cringes, I find it’s not so bad. And you spot all kinds of silly mistakes that should never have made it through. Here’s one: in “Lethal Weapon” when Riggs makes the suicide guy jump with him because they’re handcuffed together? You can see in the first slow motion fall clip, no handcuffs!
    Even people who have made huge hits- with tons of money and fame and groupies- have some “doh” moments. That make it through to the very end, quotha! And still, money and fame and groupies, so… perfection can wait, perhaps.

    Liked by 2 people

    • October 10, 2017 at 12:18 pm

      Perfection can wait, most definitely, Will, but I still have this deep-seated fear (perhaps even deeper than my early prose) that someone will find this sort of drivel after my death, whether I’ve been run over by the Limerick bus or not, and people will end up thinking that this was how I wrote for real. We all have our own nightmares.

      Like

  7. October 10, 2017 at 11:47 am

    chewed some cow! ;0)

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 10, 2017 at 12:20 pm

      I know, Lorna. I can only apologise to every single head of your stock. So, so sorry. I’m moorose. (Sorry again.)

      Like

  8. October 10, 2017 at 11:48 am

    Reblogged this on Jan Hawke INKorporated and commented:
    Rabbie Burns was right! We all need the gift to see ourselves as others see us! 😛
    Another hilarious insight into the head of Tara Sparling… 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 10, 2017 at 12:21 pm

      If the Internet had known this was coming, Jan, I would never have been given the password.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. October 10, 2017 at 12:04 pm

    I recently ran across a big notebook full of poems written from about nine years old, onward. I decided that I really ought to type them up for posterity, but, after the third poem, I realized that posterity had never done anything to harm ME, so I stopped.

    Liked by 5 people

  10. October 10, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    Brilliant post, Tara!! It reminds me of my old diaries; I have a memory of writing about how sad I was about a tragedy involving loss of life and the very next sentence was about how I’d eaten too much ice cream and I was going to get really fat. The juxtaposition of these thoughts makes me cringe, but I was only 15…. bless.
    Sx

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 10, 2017 at 4:54 pm

      Oh, Scarlet, I’m with you there. I’m sure I’ve committed the same crimes and worse. My teenage diaries would never make it anywhere near this blog and if found I will deny everything. Burning’s too good for teenage angst, certainly mine anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. October 10, 2017 at 1:35 pm

    I think I had a Kit-Kat complex when I was at college. It involved eating said Kit-Kats and not writing essays late at night.

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 10, 2017 at 4:55 pm

      I wish my Kit-Kat complex was as sensible, Victoria, but I suspect it was far less chocolatey and far more nauseating.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. October 10, 2017 at 1:57 pm

    I am the worst writer I can be, does that qualify?

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 10, 2017 at 4:57 pm

      I’m not sure. Might you be overqualified? Would you by any chance like to reapply with a less impressive CV?

      Like

  13. October 10, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    Hahahahahaha … been there, done that and written similar journal entries … Although, I think yours are classier, to be honest 🙂 Number 9 is my favourite … oh, no, wait … number 6 is … but I’m also torn by all the flat bullet rained-on windows … OK, now I think I have worstest writing envy … 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 10, 2017 at 5:09 pm

      There should be a bad blogging award, just like the Bulwer-Litton Fiction Contest for the first sentence of the worst possible novel. I sometimes wonder about the blogging world’s appetite for self parody, though…

      Liked by 1 person

      • October 10, 2017 at 7:34 pm

        Personally, I’m all for self-parody (which is probably just as well)! Here’s one (for real, from my juvvie diary) ‘Here we are again, ready to torment you in a fantasy of fabulous, fruity and profound sayings! What do you mean ‘Oh, not her again!’. The next entry starts, ‘I got a nice recipe tonight for a dessert.’ My older self says – three letters, the first is ‘W’. Bring on that competition … 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  14. October 10, 2017 at 3:11 pm

    Oh, our cringeworthy past… Don’t go there. Just… don’t…

    Liked by 1 person

  15. October 10, 2017 at 3:37 pm

    Funny i was thinking about this too because I’m going over my old blog posts and editting them. Last year I thought they were just fine now I’m so glad my reading friends are so forgiving. In a year’s time I will more than likely still be cringing. Nothing like a little hindsight for spotting dangerous busses eh?

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 10, 2017 at 5:27 pm

      It does make you wonder, though, doesn’t it… what are we going to think in another ten years of what we’re writing now? I may just have to get drunk. On an ongoing future basis.

      Liked by 1 person

      • October 10, 2017 at 5:31 pm

        Yes it’s depressing me so much right now and to make it worse I’m trying to put together a synopsis to submit while wondering what’s the point of it all, it’s bound to be rubbish. I think there’s an historical point there about the key to success being related to inebriation.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. October 10, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    Tara, this was such a joy to read! Thank you! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  17. October 10, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    I look back on my debut novel (that is published and still on the market) and cringe. Oh my, I can not wait to get my rights back so I can fix it. Lol. I know how you feel. Lol. Thanks for the laugh this morning.

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 10, 2017 at 5:28 pm

      You’re welcome. If my debasing myself can’t make someone laugh, I may as well just not ever get up…

      Like

  18. October 10, 2017 at 4:01 pm

    Reblogged this on | Rock+Paper+Music | and commented:
    As most of you know, Tara Sparling is not only one of my favorite bloggers, but a fine (and hilarious) writer in general. I always appreciate her smart, unabashed take on the topic of writing, and this entry is no exception. Enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 10, 2017 at 5:29 pm

      Thank you for re-blogging, Lorraine. If anyone comes knocking on your door looking to sign me up, having read those 11 examples of awesomeness, tell them I can be found in the pub.

      Like

  19. October 10, 2017 at 5:54 pm

    Thank you so much for this, Tara. Sadly, I identified with it too much, especially the “never more stupid than when trying to be clever.” The laughter of recognition was never more melancholic!

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 10, 2017 at 6:06 pm

      Yup. Just goes to prove that ‘misery loves company’ is an actual law of physics (or something), right?!

      Liked by 1 person

  20. October 10, 2017 at 6:47 pm

    GREAT post! You had me giggling out loud and there is SO much truth to your point. 😂😉👌

    Liked by 1 person

  21. October 10, 2017 at 7:12 pm

    This precisely why I never keep my journals. I burn them because I know they are filled with utter crap. Thanks for the laughs, I really needed a few today.
    Annie

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 10, 2017 at 11:25 pm

      I’m glad I could help, Annie. The fact that these raised a laugh may be the only way of reducing my stratospheric levels of cringe!

      Liked by 1 person

  22. October 10, 2017 at 11:31 pm

    My early writing was about how many difficult and senseless words I can come up with. I put them together hoping they will make sense to whoever reads them. I shudder now thinking about it. 😦

    Like

    • October 11, 2017 at 8:56 pm

      Sounds like highbrow literary fiction to me. Have you thought of submitting it to the Booker committee?!

      Like

  23. October 11, 2017 at 2:41 am

    Great post, Tara. I recently took a journey back into the ‘Twilight Zone’ and had a look at some of my (dare I say writing)…. Oh, hell … and it was.

    Like

    • October 11, 2017 at 8:58 pm

      I’ve been trying to look for a silver lining, Soooz, so here it is: if our past writings are hell, at least we don’t still live there. That any good?

      Liked by 1 person

      • October 11, 2017 at 10:31 pm

        Loving it. Hell sure is a rough neighborhood. 😈😊

        Liked by 1 person

  24. October 11, 2017 at 8:20 am

    I love this – and bow with respect at your bravery in putting them on here. I read many, many self- and indie pub books and the worst writing is always that which tries to be clever/super descriptive/witty/atmospheric/wry. As you have discovered, the best comes from the heart, and without lots of daft over-writing. If you can sense it ‘being written’, it doesn’t work!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 11, 2017 at 9:06 pm

      You know, Terry, I wasn’t thinking I was so brave – but it seems my examples of dubious precociousness were even dodgier than I thought, given the reaction! I agree with you completely on over-writing. It’s something I think everyone gets over in time – if only we take the time to realise it.

      Like

  25. October 11, 2017 at 4:56 pm

    I have a lot of really terrible writing in spiral bound notebooks. I also have one very nice leather journal in which I haven’t been able to bring myself to write a single word. I probably never will. Too much pressure. I assume however I ruin its pristine pages will be emarrassing in a few years.

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 11, 2017 at 9:15 pm

      Sounds like you’ve suggested a proper challenge, Sarah. I hereby dare you to begin writing in the leather journal and report back by 2030 on its contents. Do you accept?

      Liked by 1 person

      • October 12, 2017 at 2:42 am

        Obviously I assume that by 2030 I’ll be such a wildly famous author that

        Like

  26. October 11, 2017 at 6:24 pm

    Why do you think I write under a pen name? My first effort for the school mag was a poem with 64 verses. I was astounded when they turned it down.

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 11, 2017 at 9:23 pm

      Wow! 64 verses! Sounds like a folk song. Are you sure it wasn’t a folk song?!

      Liked by 1 person

      • October 11, 2017 at 10:43 pm

        Deserted on an island, deserted on the sand, no sign of human footsteps no touch of human hand. And on and on and on for another 63 verses.

        Liked by 1 person

        • October 11, 2017 at 11:14 pm

          I think that sounds quite lovely, whether as poetry or folksong. I’m not entirely sure how I’d feel around verse 43, but let’s just leave it there for now. 😉

          Liked by 1 person

  27. October 11, 2017 at 6:42 pm

    When I was fifteen, and afraid of flying. I began my diary entry on the day of my first melodramatic departure with: [The great bird I must enter]… pee-ew! and then it deteriorated into a long poem. Thankfully, the growing pains of Goth and angst were yet to descend on later generations. It doesn’t bear thinking what I’d have written if I’d been allowed to wear black clothes, white lipstick, and a cape to school.

    I love Stephen King’s comment from his book ‘On Writing’. After he reads a particularly bad sentence he writes: who farted!

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 11, 2017 at 9:48 pm

      If I could blame this writing on being a teenager I would, Veronica, I would. Unfortunately it was much later than that. I think we’re all fine with our angsty teenage scribblings, but we might need to open ourselves to being still rather crap later in life. I most definitely suffered from this kind of flatulence, anyway…

      Like

  28. October 11, 2017 at 7:00 pm

    Reblogged this on Author Don Massenzio and commented:
    Check out this interesting post from the Tara Sparling Writes blog on why it’s necessary to be a terrible writer before becoming a good one.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. October 12, 2017 at 7:30 am

    Number 9 in particular tickled me, Tara 😀 I agree, you need to clear away a lot of dirt before you hit gold. *scurries off to find old writing and burn it*

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 12, 2017 at 6:58 pm

      It just struck me that there might be a reason I wrote this post now, Helen. I mean, it is coming into bonfire season. Perhaps we could orchestrate the only book-burning sanctioned by liberal society?

      Liked by 1 person

      • October 12, 2017 at 9:01 pm

        That is inspired thinking, Tara – your timing is indeed perfect. Also would work very well as an episode in the author reality show I swear I’ll pitch one day, honestly 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  30. October 13, 2017 at 6:57 am

    Don’t be too hard on yourself my friend. My take away from this post is how much you care(d) about writing well.

    I attempted an early version of my novel 7 or 8 years before I was ready. I got about 25 pages into it when I realized that it was going nowhere. It was just sooo bad that I stopped before I did permanent harm to my self esteem. When you embarrass yourself you know it’s bad.

    I kept it for awhile just to remind myself that I needed to write this book, but cringed every time I looked at it. Finally I did what I do when I really want to be rid of some documented piece of my history that I no longer care for, I incinerated it in the fireplace.

    My second attempt went better. But even then, trying to accurately translate to paper what was inside me all along, involved lots and lots of little after edits and revisions. This time around, though, I love the story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 13, 2017 at 11:07 am

      Oh, I’m not being hard on myself at all. That’s the internet’s job. My role is simply to feed the machine, and this week I appear to have given it a feast. Well done me, I say.

      I think the embarrassment of past writings is one thing, but if you find yourself embarrassed by what you’re writing right now, that’s an insult if an altogether more impressive kind 😜. Glad you fell back in love.

      Liked by 1 person

  31. October 13, 2017 at 8:55 pm

    Made me feel so much better… About once a decade I pull out my old attempts at poetry, convinced against all the evidence that maybe I could be a poet. On re-reading, the cure for this fantasy is almost instant. Luckily, I discovered that writing prose is a craft; you can practise, learn from others and always improve.

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 14, 2017 at 3:50 pm

      Exactly, Hilary. My favourite writers make it look easy, but perhaps it’s because they’ve worked so hard to do just that.

      Liked by 1 person

  32. October 15, 2017 at 9:40 am

    I don’t know whether to be grateful that I came late to writing (and therefore skipped the writer’s equivalent of shell suits and dodgy perms), or concerned that actually I’m still very much in authorial adolescence. With my love of fart jokes (and fact jokes – thanks autocorrect), who would ever know?

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 16, 2017 at 11:53 pm

      Didn’t you hear, Al? Authorial adolescence is the new maturity. I saw it on Instagram so it must be true.

      Liked by 1 person

      • October 17, 2017 at 6:23 am

        Instagram? I’m not nearly cool enough for that. I went to a poetry event recently and it left me craving my slippers. I like to juxtapose immaturity with an excess of maturity. Now, time for a biscuit and a cup of tea…

        Liked by 1 person

  33. October 18, 2017 at 11:46 am

    I quite enjoyed number 2! Some very funny stuff there, thanks for sharing. I shan’t share my old writing as it’s most teenage diaries which still cause me great shame to read, yet somehow I can’t bring myself to throw them away! #BlogCrush

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 18, 2017 at 12:16 pm

      Thank you, Alice… and you’re wiser not to share. My little exercise here serves merely as a (very) cautionary tale!

      Like

  34. October 18, 2017 at 4:51 pm

    Lofty dreams with old Will on the cover, there. So funny, Tara, but so relatable. I have 600 pages of that stuff. It makes me groan just thinking about it. But the good thing about all that crap was the reflection it demanded, and the painful repetition that was required to undo all the bad habits and learn what worked. Reading a book about good writing is fine, but actually having to go through ones own written pile of dung and clean it up brands the brain like nothing else. Great post and full of wisdom. 🙂

    Like

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