Be the artist 


Writing, like any other creative endeavor, is an art form. The artist uses line, color, texture, shape and perspective to create things that make us feel a certain way or think of a certain thing when we look at them. Likewise, the musician uses scales, chords and the ability to shape notes on the instrument to create music that gives us similar sensations.

Writing is no different. We use words and groups of words (clauses, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, sections, chapters) to evoke the very same things. Good writers learn all they can about their language and how to combine its words for maximum effect.

If the reader experiences nothing, the writing falls flat. Like the work of any other artist, good writing takes us into the story and helps us experience something.

The artist cannot accomplish this with just any colors, chords or clauses. They must be the right ones. So, how does one choose?

Be the scientist

It was Jonas Salk, developer of the polio vaccine, who once said, “What people think of as the moment of discovery is really the discovery of the question.”

The quality of our questions determine the quality of our stories.

When we read a story that moves us, it’s because we learned something that changed the way we view ourselves or the world around us. It’s the discovery that creates the magic.

Good stories answer the questions that the intended reader would ask if they were sitting with the writer. The better the questions, the more likely the answers will impact the reader and make them feel or think something.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be something new. Nostalgia can be very powerful when woven into a story. But it has to be something that the reader cares about.

Be the editor

Ask any writer you know what writing is and they will almost certainly reply: rewriting! It’s been pounded into us since high school English class and for very good reason.

Like the sculptor’s material, the writer’s work is raw and misshapen at first. Only through careful editing can it become something great.

How many times did I edit this piece, you may ask? Don’t change the subject. We are talking about good writing, how it’s both an art and a science, how it’s possible for anyone if they learn how to use the tools and then ask great questions.

And then practice, of course, until you hear your reader say, “that’s good writing!”