I recently commented on a post at titled “How to Fail at Better Writing” and decided to expand on my response here.

The above photo was taken back in the Sixties. I worked for a radio station (CJCA) in Edmonton, Alberta, at the time. I produced commercials during the day but my evenings were sometimes spent with local musicians who needed demo tapes for a record company or promotional materials for local clubs. Some of what I was involved with actually made it to vinyl.

One night a musician friend of mine walked in on me listening to one of the most badly produced records I’d ever heard. He was accustomed to seeing me trying to tear down “Sgt. Peppers” to figure out how the Beatles did what they did but he couldn’t understand why I was listening to “that trash”. I feel it’s just as important to understand what makes something bad (in my opinion) as it is to figure out what makes something else good. I had an ego that demanded that I make what I produced in my antiquated studio/control room better than anything put out by those with more modern set-ups and most of the time it worked.

I appreciate that in this case “wrong” or “right” is subjective but it’s sometimes fun to learn from what you consider to be the mistakes of others. Sometimes you can learn far more by figuring out how something was done wrong than studying near perfection. This applies to art, photography, writing, music, television (see bottledworder’s blog post), and writing.

I have a book by another self-published local author sitting on the desk beside me. The first page is made up of three sentences with the occasional comma and a few ellipses. The whole thing is nicely packaged in two paragraphs. Reading it is like trying to find my way out of a corn-maze. To me it’s an exercise in what not to do and although I can’t find the inspiration to finish the book I have managed to struggle through the first eighty pages. The unfortunate part is that the story-line isn’t bad, it’s just badly presented.

I’m not an expert writer and White Wolf Moon is certainly not perfect. I’ve read it through with as much critical distance as I could muster and have found areas that need to be improved the next time around. Reading a book as I described above makes me feel pretty good about what I’ve done and about how far I’ve come but now I’ll settle in on the couch with some T.C. Boyle and realize how far I have to go.

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