Here’s a question for you. What makes writers and their writing great? Let’s discuss.
To me, great writing isn’t just about whether the stuff engages with me personally or not. There are books where the content, the subject, whatever, makes me go ‘meh’. And that’s fine. Everybody’s tastes are valid and there’s no absolute ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. But, equally, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad book or the author’s useless. The quality of the work is usually clear enough to me – it’s simply that I don’t happen to connect to the material. This is normal (I hope).
So what I’m getting at is that great books are going to have an obvious quality. And it isn’t too hard to spot, I suspect. Some authors are also able to produce those great books, one after the other. And – on the basis of my own experience in the field, stretching back now over 3 decades and more than 50 published books of my own, it seems to me that the way they do this isn’t just through talent and enthusiasm.
Both talent and enthusiasm are part of the mix, sure. But there are two other ingredients. Hard work’s one of them. A lot of hard work. And the other is experience. All writing’s a learning curve – as Hemingway said, we are all apprentices. But the fact remains that long-standing writers are less apprentice-like than beginning authors. Experience counts – in fact it’s vital to the transition to ‘unconscious competence’ where writing has become part of your soul. It seems to me that great writers emerge from the way this mix blends over time.
Most ‘aspiring’ authors (a term I hate, but which is probably apt here) start off with enthusiasm. Some also have talent for their work, and these are the ones who get ahead – I think a lot of enthusiasts drop out, perhaps in frustration, perhaps because they don’t feel they relate to writing after all (well, these days some of them self-pub on Amazon…)
Those who get further still are the ones who mix that enthusiasm and talent with hard work – which includes learning, often as they go, and which eventually has the payoff in experience. Combine all of those, over a long enough period, and you’ll get a great writer who produces great writing. Your thoughts?
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015