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 take time to write. They craft and re-craft a piece. They spend hours and days, revising. They take criticism and feedback, listening to both the external and internal voices that drive them.
And they use it all to make their writing 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 true vocation.
Bad writers don’t understand this, and that is precisely what makes them bad writers. They presume their writing has achieved a certain level of excellence, so they are closed off to the concept of 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
I meet a lot of people who are decent writers but think they’re great. I used to be one of them. Stubborn and pig-headed, I didn’t want to change. I didn’t want to grow. 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 that I 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, he is committed to seeing the writing process through to completion. No matter how grueling or hard, he will write. And he 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 won’t go. 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.
What do you think is the difference between good writers and bad writers? Share your thoughts in the comments.
*Photo credit: Flickr (Creative Commons)