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.

Bonus: Take your writing up a notch. For tips delivered directly to your inbox for free, click here.

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

489 thoughts on “The Difference Between Good Writers & Bad Writers

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  56. I think fear – only briefly mentioned but with obvious weight behind it – is one of the driving forces behind bad writing. Few, I would put forth, truly believe that they’re prodigies. Rather, it is easy to act that way, and since appearances are oftentimes another’s reality (figuratively speaking), it makes the bad writer appear overly proud.

    Fear sucks. It’s also good for us. Drives us. Humbles us. It’s a constant battle between being thought so awful that we never want our writing to see the light of day and forcing ourselves to put it out there for critiquing.

    I understand the bad writer’s plight. Fear kills. Doesn’t mean we should let it, though.

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  57. I am sorry, but being a great writer, as well as a great artist or a great leader, has nothing to do with hard work (although some hard work might be involved in the process) – and it has everything to do with having a talent. You have it or you don’t. And if you don’t have the talent, you will be wasting your time working hard, killing the trees (without an excuse) and filling pages with garbage.

    The main mistake of modern society (and modern education) is a belief that anyone can be taught anything through systematic approach; that knowledge can be extracted, refined and applied to anyone. Because of this belief our society keeps producing bad writers, artists, and leaders.

    Learning concepts of a craft will never fully substitute a natural talent.

    1. You should read a book called “Mindset” by Carol Dweck. According to you, Mozart, Edison, Einstein, and many of the greatest sports “natural talents” should have given up never realizing that it’s the fixed mindset that believes talent is inborn and the growth mindset that discovers that talent is refined.

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