The Writer's Life

The Definitive Post on Definitive Posts on Writing

No, I didn’t stutter when I wrote that title. This is THE definitive post on definitive posts on writing. You won’t need to read any other posts about definitive posts on writing. Just this one. Because it’s definitive. If I write the word definitive a few more times, it will start to sound funny when you read it.

Definitive. Definitive. Definitive. Definitive.

See what I mean? I’ll bet you’re even starting to mistake it for diminutive. Maybe I should re-title this post: The Diminutive Post on Definitive Posts on Writing. Then I’d be compelled to keep this under 200 words. I’m not going to re-title it. Sorry.


This is the point (the only one I’m making, though I recommend reading further in case I accidentally reveal the Secret to Becoming a Bestselling Author): There is no definitive post on writing.

There is no holy grail. There is no infallible formula. There is no Secret to Becoming a Bestselling Author. (Oops. Played my hand a bit soon there, didn’t I.)

While there are many great writing resources on the interwebs and in those ink-and-paper things people still call books, no single resource or collection of advice can make you a brilliant (or average, yet incredibly appealing to the masses) writer.

“So tell me something I don’t know,” you’re saying. You are saying that, aren’t you? (If you weren’t before, you just did in your head when you read that sentence. Yes, this counts.)

Okay, here’s something you don’t know: I had a dog when I was 11 and her name was Winnie the Pooch. I named her. Clever, don’t you think? Well, the truly clever part was that I really was naming her after the girl I liked at school. Her name was Winnie (yes, like in “The Wonder Years,” but this was long before “The Wonder Years”). It’s true. I secretly named a dog after a girl I liked. Now you know.

But that’s not really the point. And also, it is exactly the point. You see, the real key to becoming a great writer can’t be found in a blogpost or a how-to book. There is no magical piece of advice that can suddenly turn you from “Joe Nobody” into “Joe Nobody, Published Author and Writer of Some Importance.” That’s not to say learning all you can about writing isn’t a good thing. It’s a Very Good Thing. (See also: All My Other Posts.) But ultimately, the thing that makes you a great writer is…what makes you you.

Again, not stuttering. I know some of you are going to roll your eyes when you read that. Go ahead. Roll ’em. (Your eyes. Not that funny looking cigarette.) When you’re done rolling, take a look at your current work in progress. Do you see how all the advice you’ve assimilated from lovely websites and books has improved your writing? Congratulate yourself for studying the craft and applying what you’ve learned.

Then look again. Do you see you in the manuscript? If not, you’ve got some work to do. (Work = Writing Lots More Words Until “You” Eventually Appear In Them.) And if you do? Guess what – a blog didn’t give you that. Your life did. Every book you’ve read, every experience you’ve experienced, every dog you’ve secretly named after a girl you liked in the fifth grade, has helped to shape the way you shape words on the page.

And that, my friends, is what makes your writing great. You.

Now you’re wondering, “So I found myself in my writing. Does that mean I’ll sell a squillion books?” First of all, love the use of “squillion.” That’s so “you.” Second of all, maybe. Third of all, probably not. But here’s something I can say definitively about your books: no one else can write them. Not even James Patterson.

You’re the only one who can write your books.

You should probably go do that now.

11 thoughts on “The Definitive Post on Definitive Posts on Writing

  1. That “being you” part is what so many people struggle with. They’re afraid being who they are isn’t enough, so they try to write from the perspective of who they wish they were, and it just doesn’t work. It comes off as dishonest and desperate. And it makes for some crappy writing.

  2. Great pep-talk and rant. Truly there is nothing new under the sun but yet new works come out all the time. The truth is it’s one’s own perspective that makes a unique story. Remembering that is also one of the hardest things for writers. Kudos.

  3. Great post, Steve!

    I completely agree – I find all my best writing happens when I insert myself into my work. Still, it’s tough to do at times – especially when you’re a newbie to the blogosphere (as I am!) or tend to be introverted at times (also me). It can be scary, but it’s worth it!

    Thanks for your insights!

  4. I’m awfully late to respond to these comments, but I didn’t want any of you who happen to stop by all these weeks later to check to think I don’t love you as much as I love other commenters. In fact, I love you more, for your patience and understanding and because you all smell like cupcakes.

    So…thanks for all your kind words and wisdom and cupcake-smelling-ness.

  5. Haha, when I read “There is no infallible formula. There is no Secret to Becoming a Bestselling Author” I thought, but how do you explain James Patterson? Nicely done.

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