The Ugly Christmas Sweater: Why You Should Forgive Yourself for (Sometimes) Writing Badly

Yes, it lights up too.

‘Tis the Season to be sentimental.  Being that I am sometimes known to be a sentimental person, I decided to take a peek at my old manuscript.  Because there is really no good way to express the sounds uttered as I flipped through it, here is a word that I think pretty much sums it up:


Yes, it was that bad.  Feeling somewhat despondent, I turned instead to my newest pride and joy—an idea that makes me shiver with excitement—and promptly found that I couldn’t write.  The thought had crept in while I had been so innocently scoffing at my poor, sad first draft.  “Lauren,” it sneered, “You will be nervous about writing badly and you will not write again!” There may or may not have been maniacal laughter.

Sometime later, I was going through the boxes of detritus that I have yet to donate and I found something most excellent.  It was an ugly Christmas sweater.  In some ways, bad writing and the Christmas sweater are awesome in an off-kilter, I-don’t-care-what-you-think sort of way.  What I mean is that everyone expects an ugly Christmas sweater to be hideous and this is why it is awesome; ugly sweater parties are often the most fun, simply because nobody cares that they look silly!  It’s like an all-fun, hold the judgment sandwich with extra catharsis.  Sometimes writing badly is cathartic, because there are no expectations.  It allows you to leave all judgment behind and just do what you are supposed to do, which is write.

So why not think about bad writing in the same way?  Consider bad writing awesome, because out of the ashes of your heinous first draft you might just find the perfect paragraph.  Or the best plot point ever.  Or at least it will give you a good solid laugh before you start writing that second draft.

So what sorts of ugly sweaters do you have in your closet?  Do you agree that we should embrace the bad writing to make way for the good?