Stop Asking “Am I A Good Writer?”
And what we need to be asking ourselves instead
Let’s just say we were to answer the question of “Am I a good writer” for a second. We can go with “no” as our answer. We’re not a good writer.
So, what does this mean? Well, it is what it says it is. For any task involving writing, we will be incapable of producing quality work. That could mean advertising, screenwriting, journalism, emails, essays, etc. The list goes on. Essentially, by answering this question, we’re rendering us as inexperienced to any form of writing.
But it can go the other way as well. Let’s just say we say “yes.” We are a good writer.
Now, we’ve said for any task involving writing, we are apt enough to deliver quality work. We can write good advertisements, screenplays, news articles, emails, essays, etc. We’re rendering ourselves as experienced and capable, a statement that might be true, but maybe not to all forms of writing.
Tim Ferriss instructs that the best way to learn a skill is to break it down into its most foundation elements and learn those with repetitive practice. But too often in the case of writing, it’s never broken down. The question remains, am I a good writer?
It’s not, am I a good advertiser? A good screenwriter? Journalist? ‘Email-ist?’ Essayist?
This is flawed, and we know this. I trust Quentin Tarantino to write a great screenplay, but for journalism I’d go with Malcolm Gladwell instead. Both extremely talented people, but to specific aspects of writing.
Screenwriting and journalism may both be forms of writing, but there’s a lot of differences between them and they need to be treated as such. The talent in one aspect of writing is not necessarily applicable to another.
When we treat all aspects of writing as the same, we don’t allow for specific talent. If there’s not specific talent, then there can’t be specific growth. What does that look like?
Well, we’ll say broad things like I need to write better-sounding sentences. Then, we try to do generic exercises to try and improve this.
But the problem is good-sounding sentences in a screenplay and a journal article are vastly different. Denying this idea leads us to generic exercises and that creates generic growth.
Growth isn’t generic. It’s specific. Take drawing for example. You don’t go from good to bad drawer. You build up skill in aspects of drawing, like the human body, landscapes, animals, plants. Even these categories are quite broad in itself.
The same goes for writing. The only exception is grammar, as that remains important to all forms of writing. A screenwriter and a journalist are both writers, and there are things in common like knowing how to build a story or write hooks, but there are also lots of things that are different, and we need to acknowledge those.
If you want to get good at screenwriting, get good at it. If you want to get good at journalism, go and do it. But if you want to get good at writing, you’re not going to see a ton of progress. You may see some for sure, but it’s so much easier to pick one aspect and run with it.