What Makes Good Writing

What Makes Good Writing

Everyone with a computer or pen these days seems to deem themselves a writer. All it takes is someone with internet to spread an opinion virally, instilling biases and jerking off their pen.

But damage is being done from these personal dogmas that graffiti the walls of any forum.

While I don’t subscribe to a degree being the most important thing when it comes to a profession, there is something to be said about the educational process molding people into less self-indulgent writers.

By enduring workshops around a piece that you wrote, with criticisms from writers just as gratuitous and guilty to doing what they’re criticizing about, you start to turn your writing into a craft. 

When writing becomes a craft, it is something that is respected and valued. It advances past just anyone who knows how to spell, or who has installed Grammarly on their computer. When the written word is valued more, we will see freedom of speech become more than just free (and cheap) speech.

Writing is subjective, just like any art form. However, that doesn’t mean all writing is good. But that’s just my opinion.

Free and gratuitous.

Many people don’t even edit their writing before submitting to publications. I know I don’t maintain perfect grammar in my writing, maybe I’ll misuse a — here or there, but I try to proofread enough to ensure that my writing is coherent. 

The process of revision, whether required by a teacher or your own motivation, allows you to reflect on what you wrote. What’s even better: taking a step back, breathing, and if it’s an opinionated article, walking away to come back to it later.

When the brain is stuck in a certain mindset, we can feel justified in everything that we write. However, editing an article (or Reddit comment) after taking a break gives us a fresh set of eyes for the reviewal process.

Nothing is worse than a writer who thinks their writing is the best. Except maybe an English Mastiff that thinks it’s a lap dog.

While I believe that everyone should explore their creativity and try different forms of expression, I also think there is a lack of reverence for the effort and hard work that are needed to become an expert, or at least, a good writer. To be a good writer is more than getting your Facebook friends to like your newest post, most of whom probably didn’t even read it.

Just because you know how to write doesn’t mean you’re good at it.

To be a good writer is like being a good lover: pay attention to the needs of the other person. Of course, you can always just focus on yourself, but your audience is unlikely to repeat, that is unless they have very low self-esteem. But hey, there are enough new faces every night in the bar or usernames to spam in a new thread that the focus can be purely self-serving.

And yet, that approach is superficial. For a substantial relationship with people who will remain invested in what you produce, you have to think about them. Why would I like you if you didn’t provide me any value or kiss my neck every now and then?

Just like Gary Vaynerchuk always says, “Provide value.” And value is value for the other person, not yourself.

Subjectivity and individualism.

The United States of America greatly values individualism. To be self-sufficient. To be able to move out of your parents’ house at 18. To find a job you hate but pays well-enough for you to afford all your weekend binges, and with enough health benefits that you stay in it until you have a midlife crisis and cheat on your spouse, realizing you were never happy. But that’s just my subjective and biased view on the American Dream.

When we forget that we are writing for a purpose and for the other person (aka reader), we get lost in our ego. Because if I’m not writing for the reader, then I’m writing for myself, and that can be archived in a diary instead of online.

But who am I to say anything? I dropped out of graduate school for Creative Writing after one semester. I decided not to finish my MFA in poetry because I didn’t like studying poetry or having others pick my poems apart. And I just wrote a poetry book. 

So maybe I’ve lubed up my pen just as much as the next poet sitting at the same coffee shop as me drinking a decaf, no foam, no soy, matcha latte with extra foam and caffeine. And soy. Guess that’s what happens when the coffee shop offers free wifi.

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