“Good taste is the first refuge of the non-creative. It is the last-ditch stand of the artist.” ~Marshall McLuhan
Writing is a bi-polar occupation.
It can fill you with pride, confidence and satisfaction that you never thought you’d feel (ask any author how it felt to hold that first book in their hands) and it can make you feel unworthy of teaching basic composition to second graders (for more on this, ask an author who gets a rejection letter or a scathing review).
Since the release of my first novel in 2009 I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know many authors and I haven’t met one yet who hasn’t ridden that roller coaster of emotions.
Some jumped off and went in search of pursuits with more predictable results, but most of them hung in there and ran back to get in line for another ride.
I guess that’s what separates the men from the boys.
Recently, an author friend of mine sent a manuscript to a prospective editor. Said editor has a very impressive resume and my friend was looking forward to his reply. I will let her tell you the specifics (click here), but suffice to say that he was less than complimentary.
No – that’s being nice…he was only slightly above insulting.
The response he sent (I read it) was very polite, and professional, but it wasted no time, or words, in telling her that he, and I’m paraphrasing here, wouldn’t touch her book with a ten-foot eraser.
As I read his response I wondered how she would react to it. Believe me; it would have discouraged a lot of up-and-comings…
She said (paraphrasing again) that she was taking his comments as suggestions of ways in which to improve her book, not as an excuse to quit, because she felt that she was a good writer regardless of what he said.
That is the kind of attitude you need if you want to call yourself a writer, because as sure as you’re sitting there, you will encounter people who don’t like your work. They will tear it down like it isn’t worthy of lining a bird cage.
They’ll tell you, in every way imaginable, that you aren’t a good writer.
Being a “good writer” is an imaginary and totally arbitrary title.
Writing is an art-form, and as such its quality, or lack thereof, is completely based on the taste of the reader.
Like listening to music or looking at paintings, one man’s Led Zeppelin is another man’s Van Gogh.
Point being…there is an audience for every style. The thing to remember is that writing the book is the easy part—finding your particular audience is the real challenge.
You are a good writer…and a bad writer…we all are – it just depends on who you ask.
As always – Thank you for reading
44 responses to “Do You Ever Wonder if You’re a Good Writer?”
Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Meet New (to me) Authors Blog and commented:
Never, Ever Give Up Writing and Trying 😀
Great post, Tim! Everybody goes through this debate about what kind of a writer they are. Or, they “should” have this debate with themselves. It’s what makes our writing better, in the end.
Criticism is our vehicle to perfection.
Thank you Tim.
Reblogged this on Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing and commented:
An excellent blog post by my friend, Tim Baker! What kind of a writer are you?
After encountering yet another horrible book club pick (badly written, poorly edited), I remember thinking, “Big Name Publishers are paying good money for THIS?” So, when the writing bug bit me, I knew I could write badly better than just about anybody – and I did! And when I registered copyright for my lovely ugly duckling, the Library of Congress decided to retain my book in their collection (they’re big, but they don’t keep everything they register). So, my proud claim is that I’m The Best Bad Writer In The West!
Proving that everybody is better than somebody!
Stephen King once said that someday you’ll read a book and say to yourself “I can do better than this” – and THAT is the day you need to start writing!
Worked for me! 😉
I recently took part in my first Author Fair. I was sharing floor space with award-winning journalists, a world-famous artist whose work is commissioned by Disney Studios, and a half-dozen authors who have legitimate ‘Best Seller’ monikers beside their names. There were 36 authors there, in addition to myself. I suddenly felt like an imposter. I felt as if, at any moment, I would be revealed to the crowd as a woman impersonating an author. I was awe-stricken by the quality of the writers who were surrounding me. I felt awkward and shy, and totally out of my element. I had a sudden desire to flee to the safety and sanctity of my home. I didn’t want to be called upon to explain what I was doing there amongst that mass of human talent.
Then, a lady walked up to me, told me that she had read my book, and it meant something to her. It had made her laugh, smile, and shed a few happy tears.
That one statement from a reading stranger gave me affirmation that, indeed, I belonged there that day. I will continue to do what I do, if only for that one appreciative reader who cared enough to tell me her thoughts about my work.
So, let us not forget….as long as we have a handful of fans, we have enough to build on. We writers instinctively know who we are, and we know and understand our audience. We must write for them, and hopefully, there will be an editor who will come along and see the potential in what we do.
It’s nice to know other people are on that roller coaster. Thanks for the post
You have no idea how much I needed to hear this. I am doubting my writing ability so much right now.
Doubt is okay as long as you use it as a catalyst to raise your writing to a new level! Just keep writing!
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Reblogged this on Franny Marie and commented:
Loved this post! 🙂
I think most writers feel this way at one point or another.
I have only written one book, and I didn’t set out to pen a novel when I wrote it. I wrote with unconscious incompetence. I did not know anything much about what I was doing wrong.
Most loved it, but a few tore it to shreds. One even told me it was too much information for one book and would be an amazing trilogy. She proceeded to tell me everything, in detail, that was wrong with it, and offered to “help” me for a fee. After much anguish, I decided, “It is what it is.” It’s my first work.
I have three other WIPs, and if it wasn’t for my bipolar I don’t know if I could proceed. My goal is unconscious competence. Of course, I would love to easily soar without paining over the mechanics.I have some conscious incompetence to get through, but I am going to stop worrying about that and just write. I stalled when I tired to write perfectly. Then I decided that I was writing for myself and the many who loved it. It’s flowing again.
Beautiful! Just let it flow…
Reblogged this on Seumas Gallacher and commented:
..thanks, Tim Baker for this great advice for writers …:)
Reblogged this on Wild and Woolly Wordsmithing and commented:
Never Give up. Never Surrender. What an awesome and positive post! Check it out!
Yes, it’s all so subjective, isn’t it? As for agents and publishers, it’s pot luck! Depends on their mood on the day they read your mauscript. How many world famous authors got told they were crap before that one agent took a chance?
Thank goodness for today’s new technologies and Amazon. Now, if we can’t find a publisher, or we don’t want to go that route, we can write in our own style, and let like minded readers find us!
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What a great blog and very true. Even amongst those friends who have read my book I’ve had feedback ranging from the emotional gushing on how much they loved it to a shrug of the shoulders and being told it’s just not their thing. As you say, the key is to find your audience.
Thank you for a very timely and relevant piece.
You’re welcome Dylan. I just read your “Pay It Forward” piece and reblogged it. I think it’s high time to get that idea moving!
Definitely needed to hear this from someone today! Great post! I believe it is completely true, too!
Glad you enjoyed it!
Reblogged this on Dale Furse and commented:
I’m sure every writer wonders if he/she is a good writer at some point. I love the last sentence of this article. ” …depends who you ask.”
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Hi Tim! I completely agree. Great post! Have a great weekend!
Thanks – you too!
Great post! Never surrender! 🙂
Reblogged this on ldbush21.
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Reblogged this on Libbie the Lobster and commented:
Thank you as always Tim Baker for your wise words.
Okay, I hear you. I’m a good writer…and a bad writer. It depends on who I ask. I need to get back up on the horse. Thank you Tim Baker, my wise friend.
Get out there and give it hell, Marydreds!!
I know I am a good writer.