Friday, December 23, 2011

What it takes to be a great writer...

I am a firm believer in creative writing. I personally believe that writing is something that every person in the world can do. This is a chance for self-expression and a true revealing of the human spirit. With that said, I am also someone who believes that, while writing is something everyone can do, professional writing is something that not everyone can do.

When I was teaching in the K-12 system, I had a student in my honors English class. His dad happened to teach Physical Education in the school. Now this student was a great student. He was dedicated and he really worked to do well in school, but he continually earned B's. During the conference period, his dad came over to me and wanted to know what it was going to take to get him to be a straight A student. More time? Tutors?? The answer I gave to him I believe works as a great analogy for what I am talking about today.

I answered him with a question. I asked him that I wanted to be an NBA Basketball star. I wanted him to make that happen. At that moment, he told me, that making that move would be tough. I didn't have the body structure for it and, in many cases, regardless of the time I would spend in the gym, or the amount of money I spent for the best coaches, I just didn't have it in me. I told him, the same was for his son. He was a B to an A- student. Nothing wrong with that.

Now, I bring this up because for many writers, I think they seem to miss the fact that great writers have a combination of tools in front of them to work with. All of the tools have to be there. You can't just "sort of" have them, or "have most of them." Remember, you can't get a little bit pregnant.

Great writers have passion, they have an ability to learn the necessary skills, and they have an inherent talent to really tell those amazing NY Times best selling stories. For most writers out there, they have the passion and they do learn the skills and the techniques that go into a good story, but it is that last element, the inherent talent, that might be missing.

Please don't get me wrong. I am not here to rain on your parade during this great time of the year. I want people to write. I want people to work hard on their craft and I want them to tell their stories. But I also want people, every now and then, to have a reality check.

I know what some of you are saying. But Scott, we need to have dreams and we need to shoot for those dreams and goals. Dang right you do! But, when we do goal setting, one of the things that has to be considered is the "reality" of that dream or goal. I can dream of wanting to climb Mt. Rainier. I can dream of walking all the way around Mt. Rainier in 3 days (both of which I have wanted to do), but the reality is, at 45, on blood pressure medicine and no time to get to the gym, this is a dream that can probably never be achieved.

Just a nice reality check as we move into 2012



  1. But then again, as anyone who has spent a decent amount of time reading selections from the bestsellers list and has any training in literature/linguistics/creative writing, great writing is not always equivalent to publishable writing.

    Or, for that matter, great writing is not always writing that sells well.

    So, even if you don't have that so-called "inherent talent," keep at it folks! There are plenty of people out there that buy and read the work of Stephenie Meyer.

  2. Oh, Scott. You say the darnedest things. Happy holidays.

  3. Thank you for your great insights over the past year. You make us all stop and think. Merry Christmas.

  4. I get what you are saying Scott, and I do agree. Even if we can be so objective as to honestly declare, "I'm not a great writer, but I'm a good writer". With so many self-doubts, objections and rejections as a writer, maybe believing you are good enough can be enough. After all, I've read works by some of the "greats" and wasn't particularly moved or impressed. Reading is as subjective as writing. My advice, listen to that inner voice that whispers, telling us whether what we are doing is a reflection of our true selves, or just another vocation. There is a difference.