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Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Traits Of A Great Writer

It is said that writing is not a destination, it's a journey. A journey that takes a lifetime to perfect. Writing is a craft, an art that gets better the more practice you have.

Most people can write to a certain degree, depending on how much effort they're prepared to put in. But just one factor separates the mediocre writer from the great writer and that factor is how much they are willing to learn.

Writing is an art and I am not arguing with that. Many people say art is subjective and therefore it depends a lot on personal taste. And that is true ... to an extent.

But there are also people who use that as an excuse not to continue perfecting their craft. They have the mindset of: I think my writing is totally wonderful and therefore I am right. If other people don't like it that is their hard luck and I won't be willing to listen to their criticism.

And while a thick skin is crucial in this business, there's a major difference between being able to pick yourself up again after a blow, and arrogance beyond belief.

So, what are the traits of a great writer?

I believe that the great writer has an insatiable hunger for knowledge. They'll stop at nothing in order to better themselves. They'll listen to every piece of advice and criticism and digest the lot before considering their next move. They will read all the best writers to see what worked for them. They will read mediocre writers to avoid their mistakes. And they will pay attention to their editor and worship them like a god.

I believe you can be a great writer without a formal education in the relevant subjects. Having an English degree will not guarantee a place on the best seller list. Whether you have been to university or not, if you truly want to write for a living you must realise that the learning doesn't stop on your graduation day.


  1. The writers I admire seem to have the uncanny ability to spot ordinary incidents that represent something universal about the human condition. In George Orwell's capable hands, the experience of a colonial officer shooting a rogue elephant becomes a commentary on the inescapable tragedy of colonialism ("Shooting an Elephant," 1936). Melville uses a whale hunt to illustrate the destructiveness of vengeful pursuit in Moby-Dick. Perhaps more important, they have the innate skill to tell stories in a way that's engaging.

  2. You described me perfectly with "listen to every piece of advice and criticism and digest the lot before considering their next move". I've written everything from obits to advertising to package ingredients. Now I've moved on to novels, which has a whole new set of additional 'rules'. God Bless Writers. We can't help ourselves.

  3. Hi Kenneth,

    Yes, it's very important to write in such a way that it grabs your reader's attention. This is my primary goal in all of my writing. That is one skill that I believe is a talent. You either have it or you don't. Perhaps it can be learned but I think it comes best naturally.

    Hi Linda,
    Your writing life sounds very interesting indeed. Good luck with your writing.

  4. good points Linda. I think writing is a condition that pervades a writer's consciousness all the time. There is no let off.

    great blog
    best wishes,

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