Can I be real blunt? I’ve seen one too people posting
“why you’re a bad writer” lists and they make me mad.
They make new and novice writers feel like crap.
Punching up vs. punching down
In comedy and commentary, there is an axiom known as punching up or punching down. Punching down is when you insult or ridicule someone that has less power, status, standing or influence than you.
You do not punch down.
Punch up, not down.
Taking a poke at someone is not okay if you’re doing it from above.
All those “you know you’re a bad writer if…” articles?
That’s what they are. Punching down.
At new and novice writers.
It’s not inspirational.
I’m sure all the claps made the writer feel great.
Never-mind how they made anyone else feel.
Turns out there’s not just hate reading.
There’s hurt reading, too.
Frankly, writing about writing on a writing site is like showing up at the playground with candy and a puppy. Your motivation matters…
There are two reasons to write about writing. Either you’re trying to help new and struggling writers — or because you know it’s a guaranteed click.
It’s pushing insecurity buttons.
I write about writing. A lot.
I was first published in print over 20 years ago. I have worked in indie publishing. 2 freaking years reading submissions. I have built sites for authors and helped them fix their promo copy and find their audience. Every day, I write for clients. Email, sales copy, content — you name it, I write it.
So I try to help where I can. Because it’s what I freaking do. Because when I was starting, people helped me.
I will never forget the editors that coached me through edit after edit. So I try to pay that forward. I give tips. I try to help with skills and inspiration.
Here’s a few things I’ve learned over the years.
1. The best role models inspire and encourage
Years ago my daughter wrote to a famous author, saying how much she loved her books and included a little story she’d written. I waited for the fallout and heartbreak, expecting her to get a form letter in response.
Imagine my surprise and her delight when she got a real letter, filled with enthusiasm and encouragement.
I saw the same thing when she took art lessons, and I watched a professional artist feeding her students a diet of tips and encouragement.
When I got online in the late 90s, there were no college courses in design or programming yet. So I reached out in the dev community and was astounded at how many people helped for no reason but the goodness of their hearts.
There will always be people who ridicule, discourage and tell you why you suck, why you’re not going to make it. Ignore them. They aren’t role models.
As Mr. Rogers said — look for the helpers. There are always helpers.
2. There’s no such thing as a lazy writer
That’s a popular one, isn’t it? You’re a lazy writer because you don’t write enough, or because you want to write, and you dream of writing, but you’re not actually doing it. So obviously — you’re lazy. Right?
Well, guess what? Laziness does not exist. Unseen barriers do. That’s from a psychology professor. If you want to write but you’re struggling, and not really sure what’s holding you back, maybe give it a read later.
I promise you, whatever is holding you back is some unseen barrier, it’s not that you’re lazy and don’t let any wahoo on the internet make you think any different.
Never let anyone knock you down if they aren’t going to help you back up.
3. There’s not a wrong way to write
People love to make up rules for everyone else. This exists in every field known to man. In photography, there are people who judge others for not doing it “their” way. Wrong camera, wrong settings, or not shooting raw.
Blah, blah, it’s nonsense.
Creativity doesn’t have mandatory rules.
If there was a mandatory rule, it might be do no harm.
The same applies for writing. Write how you want, when you want, what you want and don’t let anyone tell you any different. You have to find your way. Their way isn’t your way.
We’re all just bozos on the bus trying to figure out our way through life and everything we do. But you have to drive your own bus and use your own map, because if you don’t, you might not like where you end up.
4. There’s no such thing as a bad writer.
There is bad writing, of course, because writing is a skill. Skills are learned, not inherited.
Separating the action from the person is a core concept in parenting. When kids do something they shouldn't have, we tell them that was a bad thing. We don’t say you’re a bad person.
Having weak technical skills does not make you a bad writer because writing skills are not all there is to being a writer.
Colson Whitehead had horrible writing skills. So bad that he was rejected from every creative writing course he tried to take. The entry forms always asked for a sample, and they rejected him based on his samples.
Afterwards, he said he always had the desire and the ideas, but it took 15 years to improve his skills enough to do justice to the idea for that book.
5. Don’t quit, struggle is part of the process
If you’ve seen even one of those “bad writer” pieces, if you’ve even once wondered if you’re a bad writer, don’t quit and don’t question yourself.
I’m going to share a video by Ira Glass. He’s the writer of “This American Life” which has over a million readers and his podcast has over a million listeners.
It’s short. I think you’ll like it. Transcript below if you’d prefer to read it.
Transcript: “Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there’s this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” ― Ira Glass
Before You Go…
Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this, you might like my Friday emails on writing & marketing. https://lindac.substack.com/
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