Before I start I want to explain something. I used two extreme words in this post – Great and Bad.
I did this on purpose.
There are great writers all around us. We read their work every day and sometimes we get to meet them but there is no such thing as a bad writer. You work your tail off, you have a goal and if you push yourself every day you are great in my book.
But somewhere along the way someone will call you bad. They will tell you to find another hobby, another dream and in the end they will call you a bad writer.
This post was created with the name callers in mind. Some think they’re doing us a favor by telling us to seek new dreams. What they’re really doing is pushing us hard to the goal we wish to achieve and for that I thank you.
The things I noticed
The first group I ever belonged to was an on-line writer’s group. It was an interesting mix of young, old and a few in-betweens.
At first I did more reading than writing. I hadn’t figured out this critiquing thing, plus the stories were really cool and for a little while I was nothing more than a curios reader.
When I finally dove in it didn’t take long before I noticed two extremes: Great writers and Bad writers.
There were just as many average writers too but the great and the bad caught my eye.
Tickle the Imagination
When it came to the great I was amazed at the beautiful pictures they drew in my mind. Their words took me to places I could touch and smell. In some cases I swore I could hear the church bells inside the towns they drew.
Their work was an amazing achievement and it puzzled me. Why were they submitting to an on-line critique board instead of an agent or publisher?
The bad writers were a jumbled mess. Their plots hurried, their characters empty. It was common to read a thousand words and be just as puzzled as if I had only read one.
The People I Meet
What I found fascinating was not the level of talent in their work, or lack thereof, what stood out was the person writing it.
The bad writer was an open book. They knew they were struggling. They asked questions. They searched for answers but most of all it was clear they had their sights set on a goal.
The great writer was a mystery and to this day they still are.
I was reminded of the movie Amadeus. Mozart was in his prime where the creation of beautiful music came as easy as trying on a new pair of shoes.
Were they bored? Did they have goals? Whatever they were they all had one thing in common: They were lousy communicators.
I’m not sure if lousy is the right word. Lazy might be a bit more accurate.
They spoke in half sentences or abbreviations. That is if they spoke at all. Eventually they would disappear, leaving their amazing work behind.
The bad writers were by far the best communicators. What they lacked in talent they made up with listening and applying what they learned.
The problem I saw with the talented writers was that there was nowhere to go but down. It appeared to be so easy. No cause for celebration. Did Mozart feel this way too?
The ones who struggled became friends of mine long after the work was complete. To this day we meet through twitter, facebook and sometimes in person.
I realized through this experience it’s good to struggle. We need to stumble and listen and learn. Maybe the recipe for success is just that.
I always wanted to be great at something but now I wonder if there’s a price to pay. Maybe a few bruises and scrapes are all I need. Whatever it is I’ll take a bad writer any day.
Since we’re all headed for the finish line I might as well be with those I like.