Bad Writers vs. Great Writers

Before I start I want to explain something. I used two extreme words in this post – Great and Bad.

I did this on purpose.

There are great writers all around us. We read their work every day and sometimes we get to meet them but there is no such thing as a bad writer. You work your tail off, you have a goal and if you push yourself every day you are great in my book.

But somewhere along the way someone will call you bad. They will tell you to find another hobby, another dream and in the end they will call you a bad writer.

This post was created with the name callers in mind. Some think they’re doing us a favor by telling us to seek new dreams. What they’re really doing is pushing us hard to the goal we wish to achieve and for that I thank you.

Thank You


The things I noticed

The first group I ever belonged to was an on-line writer’s group. It was an interesting mix of young, old and a few in-betweens.

At first I did more reading than writing. I hadn’t figured out this critiquing thing, plus the stories were really cool and for a little while I was nothing more than a curios reader.

When I finally dove in it didn’t take long before I noticed two extremes: Great writers and Bad writers.

There were just as many average writers too but the great and the bad caught my eye.


Tickle the Imagination

Small Town

When it came to the great I was amazed at the beautiful pictures they drew in my mind. Their words took me to places I could touch and smell. In some cases I swore I could hear the church bells inside the towns they drew.

Their work was an amazing achievement and it puzzled me. Why were they submitting to an on-line critique board instead of an agent or publisher?

The bad writers were a jumbled mess. Their plots hurried, their characters empty. It was common to read a thousand words and be just as puzzled as if I had only read one.


The People I Meet

What I found fascinating was not the level of talent in their work, or lack thereof, what stood out was the person writing it.

The bad writer was an open book. They knew they were struggling. They asked questions. They searched for answers but most of all it was clear they had their sights set on a goal.

The great writer was a mystery and to this day they still are.

I was reminded of the movie Amadeus. Mozart was in his prime where the creation of beautiful music came as easy as trying on a new pair of shoes.

Were they bored? Did they have goals? Whatever they were they all had one thing in common: They were lousy communicators.

I’m not sure if lousy is the right word. Lazy might be a bit more accurate.

They spoke in half sentences or abbreviations. That is if they spoke at all. Eventually they would disappear, leaving their amazing work behind.


Bad is the new good

The bad writers were by far the best communicators. What they lacked in talent they made up with listening and applying what they learned.

The problem I saw with the talented writers was that there was nowhere to go but down. It appeared to be so easy. No cause for celebration. Did Mozart feel this way too?

The ones who struggled became friends of mine long after the work was complete. To this day we meet through twitter, facebook and sometimes in person.

I realized through this experience it’s good to struggle. We need to stumble and listen and learn. Maybe the recipe for success is just that.

I always wanted to be great at something but now I wonder if there’s a price to pay. Maybe a few bruises and scrapes are all I need. Whatever it is I’ll take a bad writer any day.

Since we’re all headed for the finish line I might as well be with those I like.

the end


31 thoughts on “Bad Writers vs. Great Writers

  1. There’s nothing like a few scrapes and bruises to sharpen your purpose. What an intriguing concept; the great don’t push further ahead, while the bad constantly strive to climb the mountain.
    I’m a mountain climber through and through.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Thank you. I was hesitant, given the content. We live in a time where we are so careful with everything we say. But where’s the fun walking on eggshells. Kind of messy, if you ask me. Good to hear from you again.


  3. I really needed this lesson today, Bryan. I have been beating the crap out of myself lately because I am not a natural writer, or what I consider to be a natural writer. Words don’t just pour out of me. I have to work at it. Hard. It can take me months or years even, to finish one poem. I have felt that my struggle made me no good, meant that I should just choose to do something else. I find myself wanting to be better, to learn from other writers and honor my own process. I suppose I am a bit of a jumble. But, that is ok. Thank you for sharing this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You surprised me with the twist you took on bad writers, but I must say it’s a comforting thing to hear. I’ve seen people that are talented with writing, and I know I have talents elsewhere, but writing has never been a talent for me, but something I have had to work hard and sweat for. To know that work can take you somewhere is a relief and joy. Thank you for sharing this insight, I know I’ll take it to heart.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi, Cybelle. Thank you. My grandfather was not a naturally gifted person. His reward was hard work and learning from past mistakes. That triggered something in me and I’m glad it did. It sounds like you’re doing the same thing.


  6. I enjoy journaling and free writing only because I don’t have to go back and re-write/make corrections. 🙂 I’m good with falling and scraping my knee (well…If that happens now I don’t know how quick I’ll be able to get up – Ha). Enjoyed it! ~ Bernice

    Liked by 1 person

  7. That was very interesting Bryan – for some, the writing comes too easy so they don’t have to try too hard. The reward is sweeter if you have to work for it a little and stumble and bumble along the way.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. tx for a good-hearted uplifting post, Bryan — after all, even ‘great’ authors publish a clunker now & then. tx too for your compliment on my name 🙂


  9. This is an interesting way to label writers, Bryan, and I understand your points, though it really is a spectrum, isn’t it? Actually, a few spectrums that work together: innate talent, a willingness to listen and learn (ego), and dedication to do the painstaking work. I’d argue that the last two are the most important. To me, great writers are those who are eager for constructive criticism, who are always seeking to improve and apply what they learn, not only to the current writing but to future work. The great writers are the ones who put in the grueling time required by this craft. They hone their work from story structure right on down to word choice, sentence by sentence. Great writers are the ones who know there is no such thing as perfection but reach for it anyway. :-D.


  10. D., you sound like a teacher.

    One of the things that held me back was listening to constructive criticism. It was a ridiculous attitude on my part and because of that I lost out on a lot of productive years. Fatherhood changed me. I don’t know how or why but it did. My mind turned and I guess I grew up.

    So many things away from writing has to happen in order for us to succeed. You hit on all of them. Thank you!!!


  11. Bryan, this is extremely insightful. I’ve been told I was (by one of my college professors) that I was “mediocre at best.” This critique came after a story I submitted to the college newspaper. She happened to read it, and decided to give me her opinion in class. But being the sarcastic smart ass I am I responded with “why thank you, you made me realize that I will do way more than settle for a associate professorship in communications.”
    I walked out of class that day and dropped it for another. A week later I was told by a classmate that five other students had dropped and her class was cancelled because she only had 13 students. Some people have a flare for constructive criticism to help you become a better writer, and others will try to stifle your attempts for fear of outshining their critics. Great post Bryan!


  12. Thank you but most of all I am happy you did things your way. No matter how far we go in this writing world we’re going to catch heat from someone. What we do with it is up to us.

    I like your style. Great story.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Eight months blogging 😀 and I’m still unsure whether I’m good bad or average but your post did have me thinking! I’m leaning to the average to good (tho’ hard to quantify) and I’m happy with that, I receive likes and comments HOWEVER I’m very aware my 1000 words are probably 300 tooo many? The real skill to writing is only using what’s needed isn’t it?…………….. Surely the 300 lol is padding!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. If you are having fun, have the desire, but most of all have a story to tell, that’s all you really need. From what I see when I travel to your blog you have nothing to worry about. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  15. When I think of great writers, I think of Umberto Eco or Haruki Murakami. They make it look so EFFORTLESS; but, what I think sets them apart is their enthusiasm, not just for writing, but for other aspects of their lives. Eco is usually wallowing around in that semiotics nonsense and it flavors his work (for the better). Murakami has had a few intense interests, most notable was trying to make sense of the Tokyo sarin attacks.

    My own “work” improves significantly when I’ve been reading something analytical and drab and awful like Kant or Jung. There are nuggets of comedy, tragedy and wisdom buried in the dry analysis of categories or word associations.

    That is my two cents worth, Bryan… and I think I even owe you a penny.


  16. Thank you my friend for those two cents. I accept all handouts. 🙂

    You mentioned enthusiasm and I believe that is the foundation of it all. That is the one emotion that will leak through our pens and into the adventures that we create.

    Liked by 1 person

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