Regarding Bad Writing, Such As It Is.

Haukur Örn Hauksson
4 min readFeb 22, 2021
Photo by Maria Teneva on Unsplash

Have you ever wondered if your writing is any good?

If you haven’t, please take a moment, give thanks to whatever higher power you believe in, your lucky stars, count those blessings. You have been spared a terrible fate. A suffering that eats away at your soul like a fat black rat gnawing on cheese. As a matter of fact, what are you even still doing here? Stop reading, this is not for you. Scoot! Get out of here, you beautiful, calm, happy person. Forget this even happened. Don’t let the start of this dumb article sow any doubts in your mind. Your writing is most likely magnificent.

But. If you have wondered about your writing. Late at night. The moment you wake up in the morning.

If, for example, you’ve ever written something, and felt really good about it, and then revisited it and thought, “What the #$%! is this drivel? Did I ever really think this was acceptable? This is garbage.”

If you’ve ever had these kinds of thoughts, gentle reader, you probably know what comes next. I call it the Spiral of Darkness, but I’m sure there’s a multitude of similarly ominous names swirling around out there inside thousands of tortured skulls.

Because we all know bad writing isn’t like bad singing, some sort of adorable physical imperfection. A large nose, crooked teeth. Writing is an expression of our truest selves, our Core. So if the writing’s bad, what does that say about our Core?

For me personally, the Spiral of Darkness goes a little something like this:

What the #$%! is this drivel?

Did I ever really think this was good? This is garbage.

If I actually thought this was good once, my judgement clearly cannot be trusted, and I am a bad writer.

By that pure, cold logic, everything I have ever written, and will ever write, is complete garbage.

And therefore, I myself am a festering pile of trash.

Sometimes, when I’m a festering pile of trash, I realize that I’m too busy shooing away raccoons trying to feast on my delicious trash body to actually do any writing. And if we’re being honest, it’s not just about those rascally raccoons. There is something almost strangely seductive about the trash pile’s warm, rotting embrace. Let’s lie here together and decompose.

I don’t write for days. Weeks.

But then, something remarkable happens. An idea, or an image, or a simple phrase. A match is lit in the pitch black darkness, turns into a torch, becomes a blaze.

A pressure, a hum, in my chest and the middle of my forehead. Insistent, like a flood of red email notifications. A ringing phone.

I want to write.

Resistance is futile. There’s no use in bottling it up. You feel better when you write. You need to write. If you don’t, you’ll just end up fundamentally unfulfilled, agonizing over phantom words and a lingering sense of displaced purpose.

In my experience, it’s invariably the same. The Writing Feeling (still workshopping that name) isn’t a downward spiral, it feels more like an ascension:

A pressure/hum => I want to write => I need to write => I write

I give in, I string together words, I try to be a conduit. For the briefest moment, fragile as a porcelain teacup, things start to come together nicely. I’m full of hope. And then, because everything moves in a cycle, I read what I wrote last week, or today, or 5 minutes ago, and I’m filled with dread and despair, and I think, “What the #$%! is this drivel?”

Before you know it, I’m sucked down the vortex again, being trashy, canoodling with the raccoons.

Rinse and repeat. Writers, they like their manic depressive merry-go-rounds. Like hanging out on the moon, alternating between blasts of searing sunlight and the coldest, darkest night.

This is a very stressful process. No wonder writers drink.

This is counterproductive. A sad, vicious circle. All those manuscripts, lying hidden away in drawers, frozen wooly mammoths on hard drives. Words no one will ever see.

We probably can’t eliminate self-doubt or suffering, I don’t think that’s realistic. Part of the human condition, and all that. But we can at least try to figure out a way to ease the pain of ridicule and rejection, imagined or otherwise.

What helped me was a change of perspective. Writers are, generally speaking, self-absorbed navel-gazers. Let’s zoom out for a minute, away from our screens, up and away from the top of our heads. Up through the atmosphere, into space, look, here’s the moon again. Here’s the sun, burning in the distance.

The universe is made up out of dichotomies.

The sun and the moon. Good and evil. Life and death. As Yoda himself stressed many times, there must be Balance. I was tempted to bring up yin and yang here but that’s a cliche and we don’t do those around here, we’re young and fresh around these parts, we’re hip and cool. We’ll give you something you’ve never seen before.

Bad writing is good.

Without all the bad writing, how could we distinguish the good writing from the other good writing? Imagine if everyone was Hemingway. We’d have a lot of drinking, first of all. And society would consist of endless bullfights where Hemingway in a bull costume fights a matador Hemingway in front of a belligerent crowd of Hemingways. Which would be…not good? At least not sustainable. Neither is this metaphor. Neither is this paragraph.

Bad writing is a brave, admirable sacrifice. Something Jesus would do. Bad writing is part of a greater whole, like an asymmetrical snowflake, or a puddle someone pissed in.

Bad writing is good. Which means all writing is good.

So let’s keep writing. At least as long as we’re all just doing the best we can.



Haukur Örn Hauksson

Writer/basketball lover/semi-professional dog sitter. Born on a savage, volcanic island in the North, currently residing in the Big Apple.