On my ongoing relationship with the part of myself I call “a writer” I think about a lot about things like this:
–What is good dialogue and how to construct it authentically
–What are strong verbs and how avoiding adverbs as much as possible.
–What does life smell like and how to describe such without using worn out similes.
But, most of all I think a lot about what makes writing good?
Like most writers, I have that fear in the back of my head that says, “What if I am not good enough at this?” As much as I love the challenge of constructing beauty, what if I am never accepted as a writer. What if I never get published? (Because of course, as much as many of us say that publishing doesn’t matter, it does).
And I know I’m not alone.
Because the more I have conversations with folks who are considering writing for the first time or more frequently the one concern that seems to be raised every time is: “What if I’m not good enough? What if no one cares about what I have to say?”
And, what I most want to say to this excuse in myself and others is: “Stop listening to that crap in your head and just write! If you want to write, write!”
I want to say this because I believe we as artists (musicians, painters, dancers, etc. alike) waste so much time that we could spend producing our craft by judging ourselves before we even get out of the gate. And by doing that, we miss out on the best contributions we might have to offer. Anne Lammott, of course has a lot to say about this.
Because what I think makes writing (and of course, this is my humble opinion) good is: writing that tells us the truth. And it doesn’t take special skills to tell the truth. You just speak it!
Sure, in the writing world, grammar and proper use of metaphors and paragraph structure within a chapter are all important– and without the best possible setting for words to flow they simply won’t have the chance to leap in reader’s hearts as they did in the writer’s– but “good writing” is not all about technical details.
It’s about the soul of the piece. Is the writer telling their truth?
I read a lot. And I can usually tell pretty quickly if I am going to stick with a book or discard it from the pile of books on my nightstand or in my Kindle.
I am easily annoyed by writers who try to sound like someone else or use words that aren’t a part of everyday language of anyone I’ve ever met or who are so full of ego they don’t admit what is really troubling them.
I love stories: stories that make me feel less alone, wise stories that speak truth on the page that I’m not ready to say aloud, but want to, stories that give me new insight into those I love and those I hate, and stories that leave me convicted about how much more I need to learn on this journey of life we’re all on.
Writing like this take courage.
It takes time to know yourself well enough to bring truth to the page.
It takes hope in the human condition– that when you risk the potential disappointment of putting yourself out there– others hungry for the truth will hold your work with the reverence it deserves.
So, what makes writing good? For today, I say, it is YOU who makes YOUR writing good. And ME, MINE– even the parts of me that are anxious, fearful, scared, unforgiving or absent-minded. When I do the work of bringing more of ME to my work, then I think not only do you call it “good” but my Creator looks at my creation and smiles.