Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

The Difference Between Good Writers & Bad Writers

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The difference between good writers and bad writers has little to do with skill. It has to do with perseverance. Bad writers quit. Good writers keep going. That’s all there is to it.

Good writers keep going

Photo credit: Flickr (Creative Commons)

What good writers do

Good writers practice. They take time to write, crafting and editing a piece until it’s just right. They spend hours and days, just revising.

Good writers take criticism on the chin and say “thank you” to helpful feedback; they listen to both the external and internal voices that drive them. And they use it all to make their work better.

They’re resigned to the fact that first drafts suck and that the true mark of a champion is a commitment to the craft. It’s not about writing in spurts of inspiration. It’s about doing the work, day-in and day-out.

Good writers can do this, because they believe in what they’re doing. They understand this is more than a profession or hobby. It’s a calling, a vocation.

Good writers aren’t perfectionists, but they’ve learned the discipline of shipping, of putting their work out there for the world to see.

What bad writers don’t do

Bad writers don’t understand this, which is precisely what makes them bad writers. They presume their writing has achieved a certain level of excellence, so they are often closed off to editing or rewriting. They can seem haughty, prideful, and arrogant.

But really, it’s laziness and fear (mostly fear).

Why don’t they edit? Why don’t they write ahead? Why do they give into the myth of the overnight genius? Because they’re afraid of putting the work in and failing. As a result, their work is scattered and disconnected, not nearly as good as they think.

How to be different

A lot of decent writers think they’re great. I used to be one of those people. Stubborn and pig-headed, I didn’t want to change. I didn’t want to grow. But I wasn’t that good.

When I ask people to rewrite a guest post or make suggestions on how to improve their writing, they get defensive. Or more often the case, I never hear from them again. It is a rare occasion to hear from a writer who asks for feedback and means it.

Many want to get together for coffee; few want to write.

A good writer is humble. Regardless of skill, she is committed to seeing the writing process through to completion. No matter how grueling or hard, she will write. And she will get better.

So what can you, the aspiring writer with something to say, do?

Make a choice

Choose to be different. Keep going when others do not. Go the extra mile that most will not take. Be amazing by persevering.

Take the crap job that pays nothing. Offer to be someone’s understudy or apprentice. Put the hours in, pay your dues. It will pay off. But you will have to work.

Don’t coast on talent alone. Let it remind you of the responsibility you have to honor your gift. And if you’re not that good, well here’s the good news: you can get better.

You can outlast those who are lucky and out-work those who are lazy.

This all begins with humility. Which really means a willingness to listen and change. To do the work and become a professional.

If you do this, if you take the time to make your work great by never settling for good enough, it will make all the difference. So start persevering today.

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What do you think is the difference between good writers and bad writers? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • Jim Green

    You are correct sir.


    each one has a song within himself to be sung… if it is left trapped its the worst agony of all. good writer’s realize the caged bird within and express through writing The craft of writing is hard work after you have answered the call All this applies to athletes artists entrepreneurs singer anyone. Everyone has a calling all you have to know which is yours!!!!!!!!

  • Ian Long

    I can sum up what a good writer does in three words: they stay involved. This idea encompasses the main difference between being a good writer and being a bad writer. Good writers write while bad writers procrastinate about writing.

    When it comes right down to it, writing is a discipline that you have to work at every day. With that said, there are so many ways to stay involved in the craft.

    If you simply make it a goal to stay involved, then that impending white space of doom will quickly turn into a fertile playground of creativity. And while there are a number of ways to do this, I’ll highlight some that I use.

    * Don’t think of your manuscript as a linear piece of work; rather, give yourself the freedom to pick and choose what part of your story you want to focus on. Who says you have to start at the beginning, if you’re stuck, jump to another spot. Invariably, putting the stuff you’re struggling with on the back burner will allow your brain to work through a problem that may be contributing to writer’s block without you even knowing it.

    * Sometimes if I know what the problem is, I’ll write myself a note and demand my brain to figure it out. It sounds ridiculous, but I have yet come across a situation that my inner brain can’t solve.

    * Research is another avenue I love that allows me to stay involved and while technically it’s not writing, it keeps me grounded to my work and often leads to other ideas, which leads me back to my office.

    * Another key to being a good writer, is finding a place where you can write in peace. For good habits you need a good environment where you can create. This should be your temple. It’s sacred and the people around you need to understand this.

    * And finally, have your work critiqued. This allows you to build that thick skin you need for rejections and it also points out major flaws you tend to gloss over. Furthermore there’s nothing wrong with a healthy dosing of humble pie.

    If I know anything writing, it’s that I know a lot more than I did when I first started. If I know another thing about writing, it’s that I probably won’t ever know everything there is to know about the craft.

    Visit me at http://www.penandichor.com

    • Britt W.

      Thank you Ian for your words of advice and encouragement. I found this article because today I felt like ‘the bad writer’.

      ‘I don’t feel motivated. I have no idea what I’m doing. My story is horrible, etc.’

      I have these moments of doubt and struggle because it’s a symptom of being human. I need to remember that. I need to remind myself that I know no one who is motivated 100% of the time. I know no one who has it all figured out and knows exactly what they are doing. And my story is a story. It’s started. It’s easy to start something but difficult to finish.

      Allowing myself to fall down and struggle is just as difficult as letting my characters do the same. Coincidence? I think not. Because no one WANTS to struggle. But isn’t there something beautiful within the fight? Isn’t that why we are drawn to books in the first place? To meet real people, to know of their insecurities and realize they are so similar to our own? It’s what makes books tragically beautiful.

      Today I will remember that I am human. That I am a writer not based on how many books I have published (or the lack thereof), but because I choose to sit down and write today. Because I embraced the tragic beauty.

  • carole tomlinson

    My name is Carole Tomlinson. I am an author of approximately 2500 articles on health on-line. I am experienced with websites and hold my own as well. Every good writer needs a knowledgeable and experienced book designer that does not charge high rates. My husband is an experienced and wonderful editor and book designer. He can make it happen for you!!!! http://blackcatbookdesign.com/

  • We think the main difference is perseverance. The writer’s work must be constant, and the task of writing involves an everyday effort. That’s why we founded our creative writing school in order to provide assistance to writers.

  • I think I write good English, I am not being arrogant. I do not proof read that is my problem and I type too fast. If someone tells me that I am a bad writer then it bothers me a great deal. I was an ESL teacher.

    • Surly Gates

      I was an ESL teacher and I think I write well. I hope I’m not being arrogant, but I do not proofread and I type too fast. When I’m told that I am a bad writer it bothers me a great deal.

  • Kat Person

    I know I can be, and I have ideas I know I want to get out there, stories I want to tell. I can talk about writing hours on end, give every tip in the handbook, yet for some reason, no matter how passionate it makes me feel, I blank out when I start. The world is built, laws set, characters fleshed out, and plot set in motion, and I know my writing is good. Yet when it gets down to it I can’t continue for more than a few chapters. It’s infuriating. I feel like it’s a lot harder for me because I have ADD, ADHD, and OCD, the triple threat to anyone who wishes to sit down and focus. All these tips are great for people who aren’t constantly struggling with perfectionism and rabbit trails, but does anyone have advice for those of us who can’t seem to grasp the concept of focus?

  • Sara Petersen

    Great post! And good writers finish! :)


  • Sonarz

    i am just starting out :) Feel free to offer me feedback! http://www.sonarz.com

  • KHAN

    A individual can function like an hippo, do everything they’re expected to do down to the correspondence, get reviews, take the composing perform shop, create guide after guide, analysis, analysis, study, and everything else, and still get definitely nowhere & be in the same position they were on day one when they first began, with no improvement. https://google.as/

    • batman

      i hate it when hippos do that

  • Helsta

    I think if people are typically responding negatively to your feedback that it might be a good idea to examine how you are delivering this feedback. I think many, if not most, people are open to helpful and constructive feedback, delivered in a positive and supportive manner. But people are not as open to cold criticism. Perhaps you might think about improving this?

  • Eve

    This is great.I think young writers really need to read more posts like these,I find them really helpful.

  • LiLi

    This was extremely insightful. I recently had a revelation: That I wasn’t the best I could be. After writing a story I considered to be the best I’d done yet and taking 4 months to rewrite, revise, and edit, I turned it in to an editor who said it was, and I quote, “Poor quality writing” among other things. She liked the story and its plot, but my skills weren’t up to par. I didn’t graduate with a degree in English, I just really like to write and have been told I was great at it. My best grades in college were in English. I’ve made money writing. I just wasn’t prepared for the stinging criticism. What did I do? I slept on it. I went over her feedback and changes, realized I needed to brush up on my grammar skills, particularly those I was never taught. I needed more education in creative writing, which I was already doing before the editor, so I was on the right path. Overall, I ended up realizing I had a long way to go. I wrote my editor thanking her for her hard work and opening my eyes to new things before I went public. I asked a few questions and can’t wait to learn more from her. This is a journey, and I’m prepared for it now.

  • K. B. Nance

    Love Jeff Goins? Like reading articles to help your writing? Currently working on a manuscript? Read my newest article to find out how to incorporate three awesome uses of dialogue in your story that will make publishers crave more!


    Follow me on Tumblr and stay up to date with the latest articles designed to help your writing shine!

  • Marques Ware

    Writers all over the world need motivation and inspiration to keep going. its hard when your staring at a blank page. i am just starting out as a writer and i am discovering how much commitment this craft takes. if your like me and need some motivation every now and then when things get rough, follow me on twitter @Marq_writez another good page is @Litrejections. This post is awesome.

  • Michel Linstrom

    I don’t want to be a writer, good or bad, but I can’t stop writing. I never revise what I’ve written since it’s mostly my journal but I keep writing it anyway, day after day, without anyone ever seeing it. It’s like my second nature. I write every chance I get whether with a keyboard or a pen. When I’m close to neither my hands would get twitchy, my head would spin out of control and I’d be short of breath; my whole being would itch to find writing apparatus and right then and there command my hand to do its bidding regardless of my brain’s say in the matter. I just can’t stop doing it. It’s my survival tactic. I don’t care if the product of my writing is good or bad; I just know I have to write or my brain would go numb and I’d be dead inside. I don’t live in a place where writing is lucrative, nor do I have any other reasons for doing it. I don’t even know how to use punctuation correctly. I just know I have to write because to me writing is therapy and living and I’d be dead without it.

    • Surly Gates

      Yours is not the kind of writing he’s taking about. He’s talking about writing that is meant to be read by others.

      • Michel Linstrom

        And I didn’t think anyone would read my comment, yet someone did. Maybe one day I’d look back and revise my stuff; and I’d be brave enough to show it to someone and maybe it would be more than just pages on my computer? Out of instinct I just know I have to keep doing it. Aren’t writers once just people who write a lot without getting paid for it? As of now, though, I have no plan to be one.

  • Barry Sarner

    Great advice and perfect timing . . . Thank you

  • Surly Gates

    I think you’re right about the pridefulness and arrogance. If I was speaking, and someone told me that I wasn’t being clear or that they couldn’t follow the flow of what I was saying–why would I be offended? Since I’m the one trying to be understood, I would try to make myself clearer. So it’s strange that writers would object when editors tell them their writing isn’t working. Ego must play a big part. Give me a single clearly crafted paragraph over some long winded sloppy essay or novel from someone who thinks every word they type is some kind of gift to humanity.