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As the date for my writing class nears, I continue to work on what I’m going to teach. I’m also creating a number of handouts for the class. Today my goal was to create a piece of bad writing so students would have something to critique without fear. The writing is meant to be bad and I want them to have at it without worrying about anyone’s feelings.

It’s easy to critique writing when you don’t have to do it to a writer’s face and much more difficult to be honest when a writer is looking hopefully at you. This reticence toward disappointing a writer makes a lot of us become Milquetoast about what we might see wrong about a piece. This doesn’t do any service to the writer. (That doesn’t mean every critique is valid. A writer gets to sort that out after considering several critiques. It also doesn’t give the critic license to be mean. We’re shooting for productive critiques that don’t attack the writer.)

Anyway, I’ve written this intentionally bad piece of writing, which was a more challenging exercise than I thought it would be. When you’re used to writing a narrative and hooking things up in a logical fashion and spelling properly, breaking those rules is tortuous. The mind keeps screaming, “NOOOOO! Stop it!”

It’s not something I want to do a lot of, but I think the piece is successful. I had Eldest Son review it and he said it was painful to read. My pain will now be the pain of my students. Hopefully they’ll laugh at the dreadfulness and be open to telling me what is wrong with it.


My class is called Working Out the Wonk: Tools for Improving Your Writing. It’s being offered by the Great River Arts Association in Little Falls, MN. For information on cost and how to sign up, visit this link.