Bad Writing

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.

Presented by

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.

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we still save the night sky?

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we still save the night sky?

Video

The Faces of #BlackLivesMatter

Scenes from a recent protest in New York City

Video

Desegregated, Yet Unequal

A short documentary about the legacy of Boston busing

Video

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life

The Supreme Court justice talks gender equality and marriage.

Video

Social Media: The Video Game

What if the validation of your peers could "level up" your life?

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Entertainment

From This Author

Just In