You have to write badly in order to write well?
I don’t know too much about Faulkner’s bad writing, but I guess there must have been some along the way. Hemingway thought some of Faulkner’s later work was negatively affected by his drinking, and while both of these authors had a self-destructive fondness for spirits, I don’t think Faulkner was speaking about alcohol in the above quote.
Sometimes when I assign an in-class exercise of the “free writing” variety, a few members of the class become uncomfortable. They don’t like the thought that they will be leaving some passages on the paper that are in rough shape, unpolished, and incomplete. It’s almost like the imperfect sentences they’ve written are calling out and confronting them about their sloppiness and lack of ability.
Feelings such as these are sometimes connected with writing blocks. The inability to tolerate the necessary process of moving from first draft tofinished product hampers productivity. One symptom of this is perfectionistic, micro-wordsmithing of initial drafts which makes the experience of writing unbearably stressful, and leads to avoidance.
For these writers I encourage development of the practice of leaving unfinished, messy words on the page and moving along with their ideas without the word-by-word early editing. This may mean a process of refining multiple drafts, but this may be a lesser torture than trying to create a polished gem on the very first try.
See Ann Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird on this subject, in the chapter “Shitty First Drafts.”