Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Why crap people make crap writers

So if you have no life, no experience, no understanding, no empathy, no perception and no imagination can you still be a good writer? If you are talentless, closed-minded, prejudiced, work-shy, self-involved and self-righteous can you write anything of quality?

Do you need me to answer that? Really?

Ok, here's the long answer:

Even a great story can't be saved from a dullard

We've all been there – some guy at work starts to tell us how he was kidnapped by aliens after managing to escape the bank-robbery he accidentally stumbled upon whilst rescuing the injured nun from the rabid wolf-hound. But because his delivery is dull, his timing absent, his voice monotone and his details irrelevant, we've sloped off to talk to the wall before we die of boredom.

On the other hand, Jane the receptionist has us hanging on her every word as she regales us with tales of how god-awful her ironing pile is, how she overcame the challenge of her ever increasing dirty-dish tower, how she resurrected the roast-dinner she'd sacrificed five minutes before her mother-in-law showed up – because she does it with humour, sensitivity and an ability to engage her audience.

'Write what you know' is awfully close to 'boring your reader senseless'

Ever ask someone something at work and they start banging on about what they know, ad nauseam, rather than what you need to know. Even worse, they tell you even if you know it already, and it's still not the damn thing you asked them about? Imagine that person writing a book. Now, try and imagine yourself buying it…

A happy ending is no ending at all

I'll get closure if I get that promotion. Everything will be all right if I just take a holiday. I will find eternal happiness if I marry that hot girl from marketing. My life will be complete if someone will just publish this horse-shit of a manuscript.

No you won't. Nonsense. Complete tripe. Dream on. Those things aren't goals – they're starting lines.

I could go on, but you'd probably like the short answer now.


I've said it before and I'll keep saying it – writing isn't just about words. They are a small part of it – to become a better writer, you have to become a better person. What that means, only you can decide.


  1. Tough love, James, but so true.

  2. When you're on, you are SO on! Keep up the great posts.

  3. Thanks for the support, guys. I don't know where this stuff comes from half the time.

  4. Hey, being work-shy isn't so bad. There's a lot to be said for laziness, especially when it involves hammocks and margaritas ;)

  5. Crap people may make crap writers, but good people don't necessarily make good writers by a long shot. Generally people who are hanging onto sanity by their fingernails but still have a glimmer of normal life (and of course have a knack with words) make for good writers. If they happen to hit the keys in just the right way.

  6. Excellent post. And one day, the fan will really hit the sh*t writer. If sh*t writers have fans in the first place...!

  7. @Girl Friday - yeah, think you can get away with one of those bad things - or maybe two...

    @HunterValleyYabby2 - good point, but a good person who's a crap writer has less distance to go than a crap person who's also a crap writer perhaps? I think the craft of writing can be learnt by anyone if they work hard enough, but vision, depth, and insight beyond that requires something more.

    @eeleenlee - I try and keep the fan well away from my writing desk, just in case...