Thursday, June 27, 2013

Bad Writer, Good Writer, Great Writer

 What's the difference between a bad writer, a good writer, and a great writer?

When I was a college freshman, my English professor said, "Lots of young people want to write. But before you write, you must first have something to say."

The message was: The yearning to write is not sufficient to produce something worthwhile to read.

At the time, I thought that was an extremely wise insight.

Later, having written a book or two, I realized that great writers do not write because they have something to say. They write in order to find out something, or to get at something. Writing like that can be as thrilling for the reader as for the writer. You can get fire and ice that way.

Moreover, even if you begin a piece of writing knowing quite exactly what you want to say, if you’re relaxed about it you’ll find your heartbrain going off in interesting, unexpected directions. And if you begin with nothing but your pencil and a sense of vague desperation, you’ll eventually find yourself focusing and sharpening on something worthwhile, and smiling as you go.

I've learned that way too many writers get confused and think they're preachers.

Bad writers preach badly: "Mean people suck and should be hated."

Good writers preach well: "Mean people suck and should be pitied."

Great writers draw on their deepest courage and humility: "Mean people are the likes of you and me."

Nobody needs a preacher. Just shed light. Great writing is a journey of discovery, and it can be undertaken by anybody.

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[Photo info: I took this shot of the sky over Sarasota, Florida.]

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  1. Heartbrain. What a wonderful word! I like to think of them working together, the heart and the brain. I also like the mental picture of the writer smiling as the words flow onto the paper. Thanks, Elizabeth!

    1. Hey, Jan, good to see you and your heartbrain here! Glad you're looking in.

  2. Love Your Blog. TB

    1. I'm so glad!! Thanks for looking in, TB. Maybe you'll tell us something about your writing next time?


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