Reading Notebook #18: There’s More Bad Writing Than Ever

From an interview with Clay Shirky over at the Barnes and Noble Review:

I’ve always adopted the Bill Burroughs mantra, which is, “If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.” Which is to say that if there is any intrinsic value in writing or expressing yourself or taking a photo, it’s worth doing even if the results are mediocre. Whenever the production maw has opened more widely, whether it’s cheap photography or it’s weblogs, the average quality falls. The average quality of a piece of writing is now lower because the denominator has exploded. The question becomes how do you find the good stuff in this much larger group. I am not somebody who believes everyone is equally talented; talent remains unequally distributed. What’s interesting now is that the old gatekeepers for identifying, anointing, and promoting talent are different in this generation than they were previously.

Read the full interview.

Posted in Electric Speed, Getting Published, Reading, Writing Advice.
Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the co-founder and editor of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. She also has a book forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press, The Business of Being a Writer (March 2018).

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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2 Comments on "Reading Notebook #18: There’s More Bad Writing Than Ever"

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jcorn1
I don't think writing is taken as seriously because we now have so many ways to get information out there and editors aren't always as reverent (for want of a better word) about going through each writer's sentences. There is a push to get information onto the internet quickly and magazines are under tremendous financial pressure and many are going under. Because information may have to get posted hastily, here is a recent sentence from the Christian Science Monitor, a newspaper that I don't always read or like but which I thought tried to produce sentences with correct grammar: “”Others… Read more »
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