About a year ago, one of my best friends in New York had a brilliant idea–throw a Bad Writing Party where everyone brings one or two examples of their worst writing: cheesy short stories, embarrassing cover letters, novels you started when you were eight, etc. Let’s just say it was a hit.
I read from a few overly descriptive and indulgent stories for an introductory creative writing course in college, a friend read from her middle school journal, another girl read her child fantasy novel (along with a story inspired by her love for Ryan Gosling); one guy even played for the group a recording of him singing a song he’d written for his high school girlfriend. I’m sure it was enhanced, at least a little, by the wine, but it was hilarious (there I am, above, trying to keep a straight face).
One thing we started to notice was that all the bad writing wasn’t really all that bad. Sure, they all needed a good edit, and each had at least one or two cringe-worthy lines, but for the most part, each piece was pretty engaging. I’m not saying any of them would have made The New Yorker, but they all had something to say, and given that most of the pieces were written when we were younger, we were all saying it rather honestly (if not also terribly awkwardly and embarrassingly).
I’ve been calling myself a writer for awhile now, long before I had an agent or a publisher. I went to a reading once and the author said you just have to start saying that, because if you don’t believe it, no one else will, and worse, you won’t push yourself to actually be one. A lot of times I felt silly telling people about my books (No, they’re not published yet. Working on that), but I still think it was important to say.
So many people I know wind up telling me these great stories and how they’d love to write a book but: “I’m not a writer.” They say it as matter-of-factly as, “I have brown hair.” I’m not a “writer” any more than they are, apart from the fact that I write regularly. I’m not saying that everyone has the potential to be the next Hemingway (most of us don’t), but I also don’t think that every respected author is a genius. They’re just people who write often and even when they don’t really want to and listen to the stories around them, in their pasts, and in their heads. They’re hard workers.
The funny thing is that, as evidenced by our Bad Writing Party, no one says “I’m not a writer” when they’re a kid. Instead, they just write.