Musings Thoughts

What makes writing, bad?

Is writing an art form? If yes, is there such a thing as bad art, and therefore, bad writing? What makes writing, bad?

Following the “writing is art” analogy, I do believe that there is bad art, and therefore, there is also bad kind of writing. This fact is already evident in books and blogs dedicated to discussing in great detail, How to Write Better, or How to Improve Your Writing, etc. But, if writing is viewed as art, how do we determine bad writing? In “judging” good and bad art, the rules are more nuanced. Just because shapes and colors are “simple”, the art is not automatically classified as “bad”, right? Else, Rothko would be a bad artist. Or Miro. Or probably Warhol, who actually had artworks which are basically magazine cutouts of canned soups, or Marilyn Monroe.

So what makes a piece of writing bad? Is it nonconformance to common literary styles and forms? How about breakthrough styles and forms relative to their times? Is it bad grammar? In the right context, perhaps no. For example, if the bad grammar is consistent with the character’s personality. 

In general terms, we can probably claim that writing is bad if it does not effectively achieve its goals. Even if a piece of writing seems confusing and a total trash, it can actually pass as good writing in the context of form, style and the goal it is trying to achieve. Is it trying to confuse the readers on purpose to make them pay attention to an important topic? Is the piece of writing too repetitive or too informal, and why is that? Is it to be more relatable to its target audience, like the youth, for example? Even if the writing is weird, is it being weird for the right purpose? The rule, perhaps, is consistency with form and style and/or its effectiveness in conveying the right message or emotion to the target audience. Like art, writing is communication, but instead of visual language, it’s through the written word. Writing becomes bad if it is meaningless when read, or if it stays meaningless even through the test of time. As with any endeavor, why do something if it doesn’t mean anything, in any place or time, and given the right context? With art, it could be argued that sometimes, artists just draw or paint without intended meaning. Maybe, the act of moving their hands and seeing colors on canvas or paper in itself is an enjoyable activity for them, even without overthinking about the meaning of the art piece. With writing though, maybe there are stricter rules. The rules may be less strict in other literary or writing forms than with others, but since the molecular components of writing are words, and how they are meaningfully structured into phrases and sentences, we can say that just writing gibberish wouldn’t really be counted as an enjoyable writing activity. Unless one is aiming for a hybrid between calligraphy and visual art?


Photo courtesy: Scott Graham on Unsplash


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