Start your New Year off with a little Bad Writing, Vernon Lott’s documentary featuring┬áMargaret Atwood, David Sedaris, Nick Flynn and more, streaming for free all month:


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TNB Arts and Culture Editor CYNTHIA HAWKINS teaches creative writing at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Most of what she thinks she knows comes from movies, including how to tango, how to take someone down with a ballpoint pen, how to curse in French, and how to catch a moving train. Her work, on movies and otherwise, has appeared in literary journals and magazines such as ESPN the Magazine, Parent:Wise Magazine, The Good Men Project, New World Writing, Strange Horizons, and numerous alternative weeklies and anthologies. You can find Cynthia on Twitter and at cynthiahawkins.net.

3 responses to “Bad Writing Streaming for Free 
in January”

  1. K. White says:

    I enjoyed the film. I’m not a writer but I am an artist and even at the ripe age of 68 I found it enlightening and inspiring. I am the famous unknown artist but I’m still trying….

    Kudos to the writer/filmaker

  2. So grateful you posted this — and so grateful to Jennifer Esperanza for sharing your post on Facebook where I learned of it. This movie should inspire anybody in the writing — and other — creative arts.

    Has me feeling better about my lifelong journey. Was beginning to get a bit discouraged about it.

    The takeaway for me is that almost no one ever feels truly fully validated as a writer.

    And that even great writers can be bad.

    (Or vice versa.)

    And that really, what matters in writing, is: Does it touch its intended readers in a meaningful way? Does it entertain them? Help them along their journey?

    For me, the last decade, the inner critic has been merciless and kept me from publishing most of what I’ve written. And, even worse, kept me from completing much of what I’d started. The sense of excitement and joy about it all that had driven me to pursue it in boyhood and the first couple decades of adulthood had waned.

    This was cumulative. Started with my first professional publication at age 13. Had so looked forward to that and all the response and recognition and admiration I imagined it would bring me. Then the day came. And it was just another day and, for the most part even people who I knew KNEW I had been published that day and who had even seen my work failed to mention it to me or acknowledge it.

    Then when my first book came out…. Had imagined spotlights and interviews and parties and people being enthralled and amused with my every utterance. Making the rounds of bigtime talk shows. Being recognized on the street. But, the day my first book came out was just another day.

    Later books sometimes got shotgun book tours — flying in and out of major cities and being raced from radio station to radio station during rushhours to do three to five minute interviews with hosts who riffed off questions their producers had handed them as I was mic’d up.

    More than 20 books and a million-and-a-half sales later, as I enter my 6th decade, there IS still the occasional thrill of finding myself in that bright-lit creative zone where the words and sounds and images flood forth so fast that I cannot catch or interpret them all correctly on paper (or lcd screen), and the sense that something wonderful and important is flowing through me and that I am here to take it down — at leaast as much I can manage to grab — and share it. But my urge to share wanes, once the brilliant mania fades and the craftmanship of completion begins.

    And I find it less easy to enter that bright zone at will.

    Am always touched and re-energized when occasionally a stranger I meet tells me how much a book or piece of mine has helped him or her. And that DOES happen a couple times a year.

    But more commonly, people seem dismissive. They ask when we meet, “So what do YOU do?” When I tell them I write books they sometimes say, “Really? Any I’d know?”

    Maybe I don’t act snobby enough, or look wealthy enough — but often people seem to think that if they haven’t seen me on TV regularly and/or if I don’t have a title on the current bestseller list that I’m not a REAL writer.

    And beyond that, people are puzzled about how to relate to writers. Some seem to resent that I don’t punch a timeclock or have a daily commute or, for that matter, collect a weekly paycheck — like “normal” people. And figure there’s just something wrong about that.

    And beyond even that, too many people I meet are excited to find out that I am a writer because they have a book in them that they are going to write. Someday. When they can find the time. It’s based on their amazing life story and will be a number one bestseller and they think I should be fascinated to hear every detail of the story, right now, as they spill it forth. And they insist on telling it. And even when I manage to escape their narrative at a convenient point, they are likely to come up to me later at the first opportunity and begin filling in more of the details.

    Honestly, some people do have fascinating stories and I enjoy coaxing them to tell them. But, for the most part, those who want to tell me the story of the book of their life that they someday will write aren’t those people. Aren’t as fascinating as they are needy.

    Somehow, over the years, I’ve gotten discouraged with the writing trade. With identifying myself as a writer. Had begun to consider it more of a curse. Something of a karmic life sentence.

    This movie, however, rekindled in me a bit of the writing-fighting spirit. A bit of the desire to put something out there that deeply matters to ME and see if it can make a positive impact. And maybe, just maybe, not give a damn if it doesn’t bring me massive recognition and acclaim and throngs of attractive girls jumping up and down and clapping their hands like they did for Ricky Nelson.

    I’m too old to be Ricky Nelson.

    Just want to offer two more observations — which WERE central to the point of this movie:

    1. It takes real talent to be a good BAD writer.
    2. It takes real courage to even try to publish something meaningful.

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