Bad Writing

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The process by which writing goes from bad to good--or even great--totally fascinates me. I think the main reason more people don't write is the sheer terror of confronting yourself on the page. Somewhere there are people who--on their first try--can make great writing. These people do not have bathrooms in their homes, as they are not human.

The rest of us are mere mortals, whom first drafts are, in the main, cringe-inducing. (Someday I'll post the original "sample chapter" that I submitted to publishers for The Beautiful Struggle. It was so dreadful that only house even bid on the book.) The ability to go to war with one's own awfulness requires a special kind of moxie. I believe that many people have the talent to write. But very few have the courage to rewrite. Even fewer have the courage to rewrite fail, and live to do the whole thing again. And even this gets it wrong. It makes it sound like all of this is some sort of choice. 

This is a long way of introducing a documentary about bad writing. I want to see it.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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