WRITING WELL, WRITING HARD?

Blogging Insights # 43 — Hard work

Does working hard make your writing better?

First and foremost, some people will never write well because they lack talent. There is a bottom line to writing as there is to painting, sculpture, architecture, mathematics — really, most professions. Everything requires that you have the native ability to do “that thing” — whatever “that thing” is.

Not everyone can sing or play an instrument. Not everyone is good with numbers, paints, chisels, or words. That’s just reality. You can work as hard as you want, but if you don’t have the talent, no amount of work will make you a good writer. But if you have a talent for words, an understanding of how to use them — and hopefully something worth saying — hard work can make you a better writer. The more you write, the better you get. I often think sheer volume is the biggest key to successful writing. Keep plugging away at it until it comes together. Talent is fine, but dogged determination will get the book finished and ready for publication a lot faster than talent alone.

How hard you need to work also depends on what you are writing. Blogging generally isn’t hard work, at least not casual blogging. If you are an historian or a scientist and you have to research all your writing, that’s work. A lot lot more work than tossing off how you feel about something. More accurately, the writing isn’t harder. It’s the research that’s hard.

Writing comedy can be-hard because what’s funny to you may not be funny to others. It’s why good comedy writers can always find work.

Writing long, complicated books is work. Complicated plots require not just writing, but thinking and planning. And then, there’s so much editing. So the amount of work attaches to what part of the process you are discussing. Writing the first draft can be the easy part. Turning a draft into a book worthy of publication can involve a great deal of work, witness how many of us have uncompleted books languishing on our hard drives.

Sitting down and writing a “feeling” piece for a blog is rarely hard work unless you are including facts, but again, the writing isn’t hard. The research is work. Maybe that’s why so much of the writing on the internet is tragically flawed from a factual perspective. Too many people think that facts don’t matter and “my opinion is as good as anyone else’s.” Really, it’s not, unless the subject is how you feel about the cut of blue jeans or whether or not a hot dog is a sandwich.

When real facts are involved, knowing what you are talking about counts. We’d have a much better world if more people recognized the difference between opinion and knowledge.

So, does writing well always require more work? Sometimes not, but often yes, though the work is probably not the writing but editing, research, or unraveling a complex plot. I don’t think writing itself is improved by working harder, but it can certainly be improved by better editing and intelligently written storylines.

I’ve never found writing difficult. Words come easily to me and always have but when I need to make a point, I research. That’s work. I often put off writing because it requires research. Blogging IS a hobby and I don’t want to let it become a job.

Editing is work. Once I’m done writing, I don’t want to keep combing it for typos, incoherent sentences, or even taking a hard look to see if I the piece makes sense. Multiple edits of the same material drive me crazy and why the one and only book I finished embarrasses me. I never did the amount of editing it needed and it shows. It may not be apparent to everyone else, but it bothers me.

I think this is another case of me not giving a simple answer to an apparently simple question. I guess I’m just not able to look at anything one way. I need to turn it around, look at it from the back, side, top, and bottom.



Categories: Anecdote, Challenges, Editing, Research, Writing

Tags: , , , , ,

10 replies

  1. A comprehensive response Marilyn and I agree with you that writing without talent or knowledge isn’t much good.

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  2. I think this kind of question has no ‘single best answer’ and the answer varies in varying situations.

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  3. Hi Marilyn, I agree that hard work is 90% of success but you need that 10% of talent to ever be great.

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    • I’ve always felt many people need to remember that writing is also art. Too many would-be writers are convinced hard work alone is enough. Hard work will make your basic skills better, but the art needs talent, creativity, imagination and maybe a subtle hint of magic.

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  4. Its true. Not everyone is a good writer. But I think most people can turn out some good writing if they try hard enough!

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    • Anyone who has the language skills can be a competent writer, but the art needs that spark of talent. Competency is great for most work, but writing as a profession really does need at least a bit of talent to make it more than “good enough.” This is true of all art. The ability to use words is the starting point, but after that? You need something else too. Creativity and imagination plus something to say that other people will enjoy.

      My mother painted. She did very competent work, but she didn’t have the spark to turn her paintings into art. She worked at it for most of her life, but in the end, she painted hundreds of pictures, but they never went from good to great. I so much wanted her to find the magic, but it never happened. I still have several of her paintings and they are attractive and for me at least, nostalgic. But that was as good as it got for her.

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