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On Being a Bad Writer

Water Spots

Skillfully executed nonfiction and fiction requires more than a brain dump on the page.

We need a story, something to say, one that speaks to a thing in our hearts or minds. So we write and write and write.

How defeating it then is, to write and write and write hard for weeks and weeks, edit for several more weeks, believing this piece is the best piece we’ve ever written, only to have another writer friend find the hero’s motivation unclear.

That just sucks. We absorb, digest, vow to get better. We’re professionals, after all.

What does better mean?

What does a better nonfiction essay do?

How does better fiction work?

How?

How?

How?

Questions of how address skills like grammar, point of view and word choice, and reflect a sense that maybe we didn’t quite say what we wanted to say, that perhaps, yes, the hero’s motivation is unclear.

An uncomfortable but nonetheless good situation to be in.

You can’t know you’re bad until you’re a little bit better than the bad you’ve just written.

Which means you can write a better draft next time.

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