The Phenomenon of Bad Writing

Posted on November 13, 2013 by


Today we have a guest post from my friend Ellen, who has been a good friend of mine for the past five-plus years or so – the same period of time that I’ve known Ariel. Weirdly enough, when I move to New York at the end of this week, it will be the first time during our entire friendship where we actually live in the same place (although New York is fucking huge, so this is sort of up for debate). The last time we met up was a few weeks ago when I was staying at her place for a job interview, where – for some reason – we began an inside joke of dismissing mildly upsetting things with “Well, we’ll never be royals!”. Which somehow inspired Ellen to write this rant about Lorde. It’s not in the comedy vein that we typically do here, but we are fans of a good rant about poorly written things.

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I’ve written two guest posts for Matthew and Ariel, both of which were humorous and intended to ridicule the terrible writing on which this blog feeds. In this post, however, I’d actually like to discuss how bad writing is affecting the world of good writing. I will preface my opinion here with a disclaimer: I do not claim to be the most cultured of readers. My favorite author is Margaret Atwood, not Jane Austen. Though I know Kurt Vonnegut’s cousin’s granddaughter, I don’t claim to have read all of his work. Unlike one particularly well-versed friend of mine, I can’t compare great authors verbatim or recite passages or poetry. I can, however, judge the quality of writing in a piece, and I think that I am not alone in saying that the average quality of writing has declined tremendously since those books that we call “The Classics.” (This is not to say that some modern-day writers are not producing enthralling and well-constructed reads. Rather, it seems that the quantity of authors has increased so exponentially that many crappy pieces are finding places in our bookshelves.) This decline in quality of work is not only detrimental to the readers of the world; it is also unquestionably damaging to those people who write.

Let’s examine Stephenie Meyer. A middle-aged woman publishes a bad book about vampires which becomes an international phenomenon. She writes three more books to round out her series, watches all four of her books become movies, and now has certainly retired on a mound of cash (I don’t keep up with her like I do the Kardashians, so I can’t say for certain). To a large number of people in the world, she is regarded with spite, but to those who enjoy the Twilight series, she is revered as a superhuman: she brought millions of fantasies to life, and even spawned a spin-off terrible author in E.L. James.

At this point, I need to draw a comparison to the music industry, so let’s look at Selena Gomez. A child star and talented actress (I really do think so), she decided to pursue a music career and has released several albums of dance tunes. She has a decent voice, but on the whole, the world regards her as a terrible singer. Much like Stephenie Meyer produced bad books, Selena Gomez has, in the public eye, released bad albums. Despite her music leaving a bad taste in many mouths, however, a fair number of tweens and college-aged students think Selena Gomez is a star (at the very least, they like dancing to her music).

Now enter a talented songwriter.  At only 16, New Zealender Lorde has created a chart-topping hit (“Royals”) with resonating lyrics and a mellow beat. She has a unique and soulful voice, undeniable talent, and is receiving critical and popular acclaim. Rather than using this acclaim to promote her music, however, she’s using it to tear down other (read: bad) songwriters. Several weeks ago, Lorde attacked Selena Gomez for not being “feminist,” claiming that Selena’s song “Come and Get It” objectifies women. My opinion of “Come and Get It” notwithstanding (though, for the record, I like the song and find it to be empowering rather than belittling), I am appalled at what bad writing has done to a good songwriter. Lorde is 16. She should be riding the wave of her success, not tearing down another artist. But in this world where people like Selena Gomez and Stephenie Meyer are superhuman stars, people like Lorde become gods – and they are not benevolent gods. In this world full of bad writing, both song and literary, those people who can write good music, or good stories, begin to feel that they have the power to do and say whatever they want.

I don’t just wish that we could all get along (impossible: authors and artists have always had feuds), but I do wish that artists could stop ripping each other apart and focus on their craft. Bad writing has no choice but to persist when people that create good work burn energy insulting the work of others. I’ve met several pretentious authors, and I’ve read much about the pretentious Lorde, and my comment to both is thus: bad writing is clearly here to stay. Don’t drown out the people creating it; just make your work better.

(Yes, this post was shamelessly created to express my opinions on Lorde.)


Editor-Who-Never-Listens-To-The-Radio’s Note: Who is this person?
Editor-Who-Does-Listen-To-The-Radio’s Note: I didn’t know who this was either.