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What makes a writer?

Updated on January 30, 2011

By strictest definition, the term writer applies to anyone who writes. Period. Even a grocery list has a writer, after all.

Therefore, anyone who jots down words can call themselves a writer (and often does.) These days, everyone fancies themselves ‘writerly’ and we seem to have more writers than readers out there. Why is this?

We are a species of compulsive communicators; this much is sure. Should a naturalist from another planet do a documentary about us -- a la National Geographic -- we’d likely appear nothing more than a huge flock of birds all screeching at the top of our lungs. A huge gaggle of gabbers.

Our drive to communicate has much to do with the success of our species. That’s why we developed language, and since the invention, we have been driven to share our thoughts and often, to record them for posterity. Throughout human history we’ve told stories, made speeches, given sermons, and we’ve written it all down.

Oh how we write! Letters, essays, journals, stories, books of all sorts. We’ve amassed knowledge in written form in great libraries, lost them, and written them all again – many times over.

No sooner does a human have a thought than he is driven to share it.

It’s what we are.

A mercifully brief history of writing

Even back in cave-man days, there were those individuals who had a gift, and while all may possess a story worth hearing, a certain few could do so with flair. They became the official “speakers.” They commanded the audiences. The rest of us had to settle for sharing with those close to us, regaling our thoughts one to one and ignoring the glaze of boredom in our listener’s eye while we did.

Not everyone had the gift.

Later, when we’d learned to record our utterances in written form, the skill was a close kept secret for the select few. Not many learned to write; not many learned to read. Written language was a mark of the highest education, of status and station, of privilege. So elevated was the written word, it wasn’t wasted on stories, thoughts and feelings. Writing was reserved for the glory of God. And God was far too great to share with the common man directly.

The story-tellers kept their trade to the spoken word. And they were busy.

But times, technology and attitudes change. The Gutenberg press ushered in an era of affordable and accessible writings – but still only for the small segment of society that could read. But another few centuries passed, and those invisible true controllers of the world began to see the possible commercial possibilities of writing. Which meant, the ability to read had to be shared. (And don’t let anyone tell you it happened out of the goodness of men’s hearts.)

The story-tellers became story writers. And the modern world was born.

Today’s technology means that everyone has access to the eyes and hearts of the world. Now everyone’s bashing out their opinions, their stories, their poetry… The sheer abundance of the written word on the internet dwarfs all the libraries of the world put together. Most of it is drivel – I agree. And some of it is downright bizarre – rantings and ravings of the uneducated and ignorant, scary.

Still, as in the days of the cave-man, there are those who write with flair and they command the audiences. The rest of us ….

So now to the point

First, what is it we are attempting to do when we sit down to write? That's easy. We want to communicate. But what are we communicating?  What is it that makes a writer in the full sense of the word, as opposed to just someone who writes?

Is it our ideas? We all have ideas, but I once read that if we have even one original idea in our lifetime we are so exceptional – and the metaphor escapes me, the chances are so astronomical. Despite all the feel-good pop-psychology telling us the opposite, our views, experiences, opinions are unlikely to be unique. Yes, yes, I know. We are all individuals and as such own a perspective entirely our own. If that were enough to be a writer, the planet is littered with writers. Seven billion of them.

I found an interesting quote addressing this ego-driven idea.

“The proliferation of mass graphomania among politicians, cab drivers, women on the delivery table, mistresses, murderers, criminals, prostitutes, police chiefs, doctors, and patients proves to me that every individual without exception bears a potential writer within himself and that all mankind has every right to rush out into the streets with a cry of "We are all writers!" The reason is that everyone has trouble accepting the fact that he will disappear unheard of and unnoticed in an indifferent universe, and everyone wants to make himself into a universe of words before it's too late. Once the writer in every individual comes to life (and that time is not far off), we are in for an age of universal deafness and lack of understanding.” -- Milan Kundera

The very idea we are so special, so unique, so distinctive, exclusive, one-of-a-kind is the one thing we share with every other single person in the world.

No, our ideas are not enough to make us a writer. On the other hand, it’s impossible to be a writer without ideas.

But how many of us express ideas that are truly our own? Do we give thought, analysis, evaluation, study opposing views, and  come to a considered conclusion? Not many. Most of us regurgitate the unexamined product of our programming (and yes we are programmed and very skillfully, too) without thought. We echo the words of our heroes sans question.

 Is this writing? (I mean real writing.)

I don’t think so.

Is it how we express our ideas?  Certainly, a facility with language is a necessity. One needs a decent vocabulary and the ability to use it. Which brings up my favorite complaint.

A writer must have a strong grasp of the skills of writing. It amazes me how many not only sit down and write without any idea of construction, style or grammar, but publish the outcome!  Run-on sentences, lack of paragraph structure, poor grammar, no punctuation or poorly used punctuation, lack of consistent tense, shifting in point of view, improper conjugation of verbs – need I go on? 

Can a lawyer practice without understanding the law? Can an architect design a house without knowledge of basic engineering? Can a doctor heal without studying anatomy?

Why then, oh why, do so many decide they are writers without a grasp of the tools of the trade? If you want to be a writer, then learn how. There are many, many places to do so.

Learn that a sentence has a subject and a predicate. And only one. Understand that a paragraph deals with one idea, one point of view, one speaker and when that changes, you need a new paragraph. That’s a start.

It’s not enough to gush out words. If they’re unintelligible, what’s the point? If reading your work is tedious, requiring great effort to understand, boring -- or worse having no voice, no point of view, no skill, no one is going to read it.

With considerable amusement I followed a forum here on Hubpages that asked: “Which is more important, grammar and punctuation or ideas?” Many argued that style and construction were of no importance in our modern world, and as long as you were understood, who cared? In fact, they were the majority. I went to read some of their hubs. I didn’t stay long. No matter how brilliant they thought their ideas, what they produced was babble. Insult intended. Don't ask me to give attention and thought to something scribbled off with no effort.

Have a little pride in what you do. You want to be a writer? Learn the ropes. Don't dash off any old thing and hang it out in the public eye. Use those tools anyone with any pretensions of being a writer should have at hand.

I’ve been a writer my entire life. I teach; I coach and I edit. Here I am with fifty years of practice to my name and I still keep three books beside my computer:

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Grammar: Writing, usage and style

I use them often. I do not rely on spellcheck, or Word (which can’t even recognize a sentence.) I've studied the mechanics of writing for years, and I'm still learning.

A writer must know how to write. That’s the first rule, and while it may be bent from time to time, it can never be broken.

Is that it? All we need is an idea and the skills of language? No, there’s much more.

A voice.  All good writers develop a voice, a style of writing, a tone recognizable as his in everything he writes. (I should add I don’t speak of ‘content’ writing which has no soul; after all, computers are competing with humans to do that. I speak of writing of artistic merit.) Real writers do this, but no one can say exactly what it is, where it comes from, how one gets it. It just is. Perhaps we’re back to the cave-man and some having the gift…

No, I don’t think so. I think the voice develops with practice, with a body of work. It’s unconscious, most likely, but grows as our experience and facility with writing does. I think it’s born of confidence. My favorite hubbers here have it. I can read their work and know immediately who wrote it.

They are not those who write in encyclopedic style, nor those writing what amounts to ad copy, though if they did write in those formats, it would still be their voice. There is a flavor to their work that defies description and this is what makes their words writerly.

Style. Part of voice, maybe, style also comes to a writer with practice and experience. Some writers just have a special touch, a way of turning a phrase, the use of simile, metaphor, vivid word usage that leaves us feeling satisfied, knowing we’ve read a real writer.

The development of style relies on having that necessary grasp of the tools of writing, without which it is an attainable goal. Sentence structure and how to vary it, the development of a certain rhythm, pacing and its usage, word selection and finding just the right one -- we’re right back at the last section. Without the skills …

“But I write naturally,” says the one who believes the term writer belongs to anyone who puts words on paper. And now we’re back to ego.” I’m so special and what I have to say so original and important, the rules of writing don’t apply to me.” Yes, it’s true some writers write outside the normal boundaries, and successfully, too. But understand, they do so with a full understanding of writing. They haven’t done this because they don’t know any better – they can break the rules because they are so skillful, they make it work.

Oh for the love of humanity, you cry, will you stop belaboring the point?

Okay. I hope it has been taken.

There’s one thing left to discuss. An absolute necessity.

A writer needs to use his soul.  A writer must write with honesty, with empathy, with understanding. A writer must write from deep within himself, must express that inner vision that speaks to the reader and finds common ground within that reader.

Which means what? First, write truthfully.  If you’re writing from your fingertips only, your words will be nothing more than that – superficial, empty, vacuous.  If something has moved you enough to write about it, then you must have feelings on the subject. Use them. Express them.

After all, your truth, your honest reactions – that is what the reader wants to share. We are trying to communicate, are we not?

In closing

Here’s a comment left for me on my hub about publishing my new novel.

“Not sure what sort of comment to leave. I want to say something clever and writerly that makes me sound like more of an equal, after all I was calling myself a writer up till five minutes ago. And I thought, oh yeah, another 'writer,’ bet her page isn't any good - but it was. Anyway, having recovered my composure, after all we can't all be proper writers but at least I can still go on churning out Hub page stuff...”

It’s this comment that prompted me to write this article.

Aside from the obvious gratification of my ego, a couple of things struck me here. First, being a good writer has little to do with cleverness and more to do with mechanics coupled with heart. This writer gets five stars for writing with honesty. As for the mechanics – well…

But that’s not my point. It’s the phrase, “churning out Hubpage stuff” that stuck in my craw.

Is that what this site is for?

When I signed up, this was advertised as a site for writers. Writers should be working to improve, hone their skills, make connections, build a portfolio they can be proud to call their own. Not churning out “stuff.” The world is drowning in “stuff.”

Let’s move beyond “stuff.” Let’s make this a “writers’ site” with all that entails. There’s room for all levels, from beginners to already successful published writers. Let’s grow as writers together. Let’s use this site and the connections we make to become the writers we want to be. Should be.

Who says we can't all be proper writers?


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    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Yes, it can. Or should. Unfortunately, this is not always so. How I wish....

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      It certainly may cause us to be more thoughtful, perhaps more observant, more analytical -- or should. Thanks for the comment.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Writing opens the eyes of an individual in many ways

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Did I? Why thank you, funmonrealgirl. Lynda

    • funmontrealgirl profile image

      funmontrealgirl 7 years ago from Montreal

      To write is one of the more beautiful we humans can do. But what makes then a writer? Thanks for answering a question that got me confused for a while.

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Thanks Ruchira

    • Ruchira profile image

      Ruchira 7 years ago from United States

      Well written hub with all the necessary pointers...Cheers!

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Hi Carter, Thanks. Remember my favorite motto: There is no such thing as great writing, only great rewriting. You've been busy in such a short time, and productively so. I enjoyed your hubs. Lynda

    • CARTER32071 profile image

      CARTER32071 7 years ago

      Hello Lynda, great hub. I am so happy I found hubpages, and also happy I found all the great writers here, so I am able to learn and be able to expand on my gift.I feel I am a writer who wants to be a great writer. Take care Carter

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Great quote, wba108. And thank you. "Brutal?" I had no intention of being brutal. A little waspish perhaps. Thanks for commenting here. I'll have to visit your site, soon, as we've not yet become acquainted. Lynda

    • profile image 7 years ago from upstate, NY

      This is one of the top Hubs on HubPages! The brutal honesty of this Hub reminds me of a quote by the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Herbert Agar:"The truth that makes men free is for the most part the truth which men prefer not to hear."

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      You're so very welcome Vivian. And welcome to Hubpages. Lynda

    • Vivian_Rose profile image

      Vivian_Rose 7 years ago from Canada

      Thank you very much Lynda for your links. I will definately make it a priority to read them. I hope to have something to post soon.

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Thank you, dear Duchess and your work is not 'stuff.' Lynda

    • profile image

      Duchess OBlunt 7 years ago

      One of the reasons I write so few Hubs is because I don't want to just churn out "stuff". I often wonder if I have what it takes - although I like to think so, so I keep trying :)

      I enjoyed reading your point of view on this, mostly because I agree.

      Hub love all around - again.

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Thank you Vivian Rose, and welcome to hubpages. I can relate to your history. I, too lost myself in my stories to escape the reality of life -- so you see; it's not an original thought :) If you're venturing forward while reviewing, may I suggest my series called Good Writing Is... There are nine of them targeted at writing basics. Here's a link to the first and from there you can move forward. Thanks so much for commenting, and I'll be over to your page soon. Lynda

    • Vivian_Rose profile image

      Vivian_Rose 7 years ago from Canada

      Hello Lynda. I am one day old here on Hubpages and you're article was the first place I stopped. If I were to put my overall reaction into one word it would be challenged.

      I have wanted to write since I was 8. The biggest reason was to escape the sadnesses I felt in my own life and become whomever I wanted to be in the characters of my stories. In high school my favorite and highest grades were in creative writing and english classes. In reflection, after reading this, I most assuredly thought myself to be special and full of "original idea's".

      Since then my writing has been scattered at best. I resonate with not wanting to just turn out "stuff". I feel it neccessary to go back to the basics of how to write as I venture forward and do what I can to develope how I write.

      I thank you for this article. I plan on re-reading it when I need to be challenged again. I will keep reading your word.

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Thank you Virtual Treasures. Should our language sink to that level we will have lost so much of what makes a culture it is painful to think upon. Lynda

    • Virtual Treasures profile image

      Kacie Turner 7 years ago from Michigan

      Hi Lynda! Wonderful Hub! You are an amazing writer. Imagine the next generation: Writing will look like texting. IMHO, ur a gr8 writer! (UofM Flint has actually started a Twitter writing class and it looks kind of like this!) You have the gift of captivating your audience!

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Why thank you Mighty Mom. High praise coming from you. And in answer to your question, if a hub full of photographs or a synopsis of the last reality show episode is getting lots of clicks, then it is popular, but not necessarily good writing. And yes, good writing is valued for those with a working brain, if nothing else. This I believe. I can not be the only one who is put off by bad grammar, not punctuation to speak of, or poor punctuation, everything lumped into on paragraph, sentences that should be four sentences, or less than one... Whoa, lady, stop now. Thanks so much for commenting here. Lynda

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hello dear friend Lynda,

      Bless you for putting into words something I (and I suspect many others) have been thinking for quite some time. At the risk of sounding like a luddite, I feel the Internet has been a mixed blessing for writers. Is good writing even valued anymore? Is there incentive for people who make money churning out "Hub Pages stuff" to refine and improve their writing? If it's attracting traffic and getting the clicks, then it's good writing, isn't it?

      I admit I've been feeling a bit of resentment. But your hub and the comments from fellow hubbers actually heartened me.

      I rated it AWESOME because that's the only superlative offered on HP. Hold on a sec while I pull out my trusty Roget's -- I'm sure I can come up with something better. And you have inspired me to do so!

      Thank you! MM

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Thank you Genna. Much appreciated. Lynda

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 7 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      "We are a species of compulsive communicators." I loved this true.

      What a delightful and informative hub!

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Am I asking for great writing? No. But writing that is spelled correctly, punctuated and comprehensible -- yes. Hardly what I'd call rigidity. There is much truth to what you say, but then everyone has come to believe every little thought is worthy of expression, no matter how badly written. Sharing? After all, back in the cave -- did everyone scribble on the wall? Or was that job left to the artisans of the household? If you're going to call yourself a writer, you should have an understanding of how to write. And, we would hope, you'd take the time to do the best job you can. We are close to drowning in a sea of words. Posterity may well look back on us with no gratitude whatsoever. If everyone is speaking and no one is listening, what kind of world have we made?

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment. Lynda

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Discussions on writing tend to catch my attention, and I've enjoyed reading your Hub. (Look at all the interest in writing so many others have shown. There's hope for the Internet yet. :) )

      To me, writing is something that can be compared to walking: It's most of us can do, and any one of us can use it for any number of reasons (to get somewhere, to get away from something, to take a break, to deliver a message, etc. etc.). Some of us use writing only when we have to. Some enjoy it more than others.

      For me, a lot of writing isn't really about ego. It's about an awareness that whatever is captured "on paper" today may one day help people of tomorrow may have a better understanding of history (even if only on a small, individual, scale). (Of course, I'm someone who saved a grocery list, written in my late mother's handwriting, because I thought here great-great-grandchildren may one day like to see such a "glimpse of history".

      Sometimes, what may look like "ego" (when a writer seems to want to be sounding off about something) is actually a writer's belief that if we all share how we think, we'll understand one another that much better. (World peace! What a lofty motivation for writing. :) )

      As an Internet contributor/writer, I have some things in my collection that are, to me, "real writing". Then again, I have other things that aren't the greatest writing in the world but that are "the real me". Some things aren't about the writing at all. They're about my venting, trying to help someone, or trying to be paid for what I write.

      To me, what any of us writes can be an "apples/oranges" kind of thing, even within the same person's collection of writing. It may sometimes be only a few plums in the mix that make a person a writer. A lot of those apples and oranges just make a person a person; but for Internet purposes, I'm not sure that's always a bad thing.

      The Internet may be nothing more than a modern-day cave-wall. On the other hand, it's also the thing that has the power to knock down some cave walls and bring a lot of people out into daylight (for good or ill).

      Even valuing the written word as I do, I think we need to be careful not to be too rigid when it comes to expecting all Internet contributions to be "great writing". Then again, though, I do agree that the term, "writer," seems to have become watered down and at risk of being redefined in a way that won't particularly serve us well.

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      THank you, point2make. That is why writers write. I am deeply appreciative of such a sentiment. Lynda

    • point2make profile image

      point2make 7 years ago

      Thank-you Immartin. Your hubs are a continuing source of enjoyment and learning for me. I have read several and each time I have come away with emotion.

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Anyone who calls himself reallygoodpoetry doesn't need any affirmation from anyone else. Thanks for commenting. Lynda

    • reallygoodpoetry profile image

      reallygoodpoetry 7 years ago

      im a writer

    • Mark Ewbie profile image

      Mark Ewbie 7 years ago from UK

      Thank you Lynda, and I am relieved you didn't just pick me up on my typos! I know where you are coming from, and I agree, and I thank you very much for the compliment in return. I just felt I should respond in some way.

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      I used your comment with no disrespect, Mark. And I thank you for the admiration. (blushing now.) Unfortunately, 'churning out' is such an apt description of what too many do, that I had to use it. Too many dash something off, don't revise, edit, rework -- in fact don't even seem to read their stuff before posting. And I know you're not one of them.

      It was your masterful writing in the comment that caused me to use it as an illustration. And you did set my mind off down the track that led to this hub. It was a great comment.

      Thanks for commenting here. Lynda

    • Mark Ewbie profile image

      Mark Ewbie 7 years ago from UK

      I feel moved to comment, as I was the author of the 'comment', although it may come back to bite me. In my defence I will say that it was a genuine admiration for clearly a skilled writed and an admission that I am not at that level.

      However, the phrase 'churning out' was meant as a self mocking, slightly humourous, commentary and not indicative of the care, originality and effort I put into writing my hubs.

      Although my output is not the same writerly level as yours, it is aimed at a certain market - if there is one for the stuff I do.

      I also keep three things on my writers table - they are a bottle of beer, a packet of fags, and The Riters Guide To Good English.

      Your hub was great and I hope my own efforts are also great - in a smaller way of course.

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Hi sueroy. There are many good places to learn the mechanics and that must be the first step. Voice and style will only come once the skills necessary are in place. And I do enjoy teaching and editing, so the gift is for me. Thanks for commenting. Lynda

    • sueroy333 profile image

      Susan Mills 7 years ago from Indiana

      It has always been my dream to become a writer, a humor writer to be exact.

      I wasn't able to go to college, so I'm learning what I can wherever I can. I recently bought the book "Eats, Shoots, and Leaves", I try and pay attention to what I like, and what I dislike, about other's writings, and I bookmarked your links above.

      Writers like you taking the time to teach writer-hopefuls like me is a gift.

      Thank you so much!

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Hi amybradley. Writing is work. Or should be. It's not enough to just put out the words. They need to be edited, reviewed, rewritten. One of my favorite quotes "There's no such thing as great writing, only great rewriting." There is an entire world beyond the first draft. Also, there's something I want to pass on to you. I've enjoyed much of the work you've posted, but you need to learn to break it down into shorter paragraphs. There. People don't like to read a long gray page. They like to read in small bits. And seeing as a paragraph can only contain one subject, one point of view, one speaker and must change when these change, our writing should automatically give more white space that makes it easier to read. Hope this helps.

      Hi Quilligrapher. I've enjoyed so much of your work. I don't often leave comments, but I've been there. Yes I have! Thanks for commenting here. Lynda

      PS Be the goodest you can be.

    • Quilligrapher profile image

      Quilligrapher 7 years ago from New York

      Lynda, you grabbed me in the first paragraph and never let go. I read all the comments. You are an inspiration to so many. We are fortunate to have you among us. I am personally grateful for your guidance.


      Dare I say that you did good? Some day to hope to write gooder than you. *|;^P)

    • amybradley77 profile image

      amybradley77 7 years ago

      This is a very useful page, voted up!! Some good sound advise here, I must admit part of it already knew but the reminders are always great to have and welcomed. There is more to being a writer then most folks think, that's what I have discovered. It's not always as laid back, fun, and exotic life some might imagine it to be. There is quite a bit of research, ruft drafting, editing, and even emotions that go into what we do. Thanks for enlightening us all, and the folks that think it's always just a walk in the park for us all here. A.B.

    • judyjet72 profile image

      judyjet72 7 years ago from Southern California

      Sounds interesting! Thanks, I will check it out.

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      judyjet, Check out Writers' Village University linked above. Great place, good instructors and moderators and very supportive community setting. Highly recommended. You pay a membership (around$100 and there are free classes, reasonably priced classes, mentoring, writing groups.) You won't be disappointed. Lynda

    • judyjet72 profile image

      judyjet72 7 years ago from Southern California

      Thank you~ I agree~ I do not see an MFA as a ticket to an agent or employment, rather as a way to become the best writer I can be. But do I want to spend the money and 3 years doing so? And couldn't I become my best with some increased effort of my own? I bet I could!

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      I agree judyjet, but I must add, writers are not made through an MFA, it's a mindset. No writer has added credence when it comes to selling their work because of an MFA. Having said that, studying the craft for love is a completely different thing. And that's what real writers do. They study to become better writers. Period. Lynda

    • judyjet72 profile image

      judyjet72 7 years ago from Southern California

      Fantastic hub- and quite useful as I continue my internal debate of whether "to MFA or not to MFA." I think the best writers welcome critique and are always looking for opportunities for growth. =)

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Hi attempted humor, You are a shining example for us. You wanted to write, so you found a place to learn the rudiments. All else will come with practice and a desire to improve -- even if you do view the craft as a hobby. Isn't that what hobbies are for -- personal growth? Thanks for this excellent comment. Lynda

    • attemptedhumour profile image

      attemptedhumour 7 years ago from Australia

      Hi Immartin. What a comprehensive hub. I seem to be the only person within my extended family with a passion for creative writing. My writing skills were nonexistent when i first started at the age of forty. I attended a creative writers course where i discovered that i would never have the skills to write anything of any substance. I then joined a local writer's group where i slowly learnt the rudiments of writing. Hubpages is a world wide writer's group, but is very different to my local one. Constructive criticism is a useful learning tool, but not suitable on hubpages when one doesn't know the hubber personally. Comments are easily misconstrued as are people's hubs too. I would certainly recommend joining a local writer's group to any aspiring writer. I purely write as a hobby but am also a veracious reader. If only i had more time. Thank you for this fascinating hub.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you for a great explicit hub. As you know I have not a battle but a war with grammar but I am trying hard to keep it reasonable. I just loove writing.

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Glad to know you understood. Send me a sample of work you like (at least 2,000 words) embedded in an email. You can use the contact button under my avatar, or if you prefer to to my editing site and use that one. I'll work on it with pleasure. It's my favorite thing to do. Lynda

    • UlrikeGrace profile image

      UlrikeGrace 7 years ago from Canada

      Lynda, no alienation taken, in fact I'm thrilled. I know I have *issues* (smile) and have been working on them...however I would love for you to do an edit. Shuld I contact you on your personal sitre...I can do that. Or how would you like to proceed with that. I would love some guidance and/or mentoring in my writing. I have been so missing that. Thank you for your honest yet encouraging comments. Bless you Ulrike Grace

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Sagebrush Mama, I hope you get well soon. Come back anytime and give your comment. Yes, the hand-downs from our ancestors are priceless. Good luck with them. Lynda

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      sagebrush_mama 7 years ago from The Shadow of Death Valley...Snow Covered Mountain Views Abound!

      I enjoyed this hub, but I'll have to come back and read it again to digest it more. Healing from a surgery, and just about out of the fog.

      WillStar's comment about family treasuring one's work is great. One of my favorite treasures is a biography written by my Grandad about his dad, and I would love to get my hands on some family letters from World War II, as well as some other pieces, just to be able to soak up their experiences.

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Thank you, Susie Writes. Interesting you use the dog breeder analogy, as I bred mastiffs for twenty years and wrote what was involved (I was one of those who did the best they possibly could) on a hub called "Diva tells all -- the inside story of dog breeding." The analogy is apt.

      I suppose what it comes down to is those that take pride in what they do, and those that think anything's okay and acceptable. I don't believe that people would rather have slipshod than good. I think we do the public a disservice when we say such things. And if it is true, all the more reason to bring our standards up.

      I wouldn't judge the calibre of writing and reading in the general public by Hubpages. It is basically a money making site first, a social site second and a publishing site by a very long third. Let's not slap some lipstick on a pig and call it a princess.

      Let's not use their ridiculous scoring system as a meter of the tastes of the public.

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. Lynda

    • Susie Writes profile image

      Susan 7 years ago from Northern California

      Another great hub, Lynda! I compare the levels of writers to dog breeders. Anyone who breeds a litter is by definition, a dog breeder. There are many levels within that definition. At one end of the spectrum you have your backyard breeders who want "one litter for the children" and the puppy millers who churn out puppies for the sake of a buck only, with no consideration whatsoever about the genetics, health, temperament, and physical structure of the animal. At the other end you have your hobby/artistic breeder who spends her life studying genetics, structure, and inherited diseases and tries her best to avoid any problems by thoughtfully selecting the dogs to cross. Her goal is always to improve through practice and continued learning. The finished product that these different "breeders" turn out is like night and day. One fully represents its breed and the other, while still purebred, may look nothing like the breed it represents.

      The same holds true for writers. As you point out, there are writers who churn out content without regard to structure or the musical quality of their words and then there are writers who agonize over just the right word in just the right spot for the perfect note to complete a masterpiece that may never earn a dollar and few eyes will ever read. Yes, they are both writers by definition, but their products are like night and day. And it seems to me, with the lower quality of education in this country, the former is more popular and earns more money than the latter. It's a sad state of affairs for those of us who love to read quality material. And for the record, I love reading your hubs, Lynda. ;-)

      The really sad part to all of this is that both dog breeders and writers of all types have easy access to the knowledge that would allow them to do better - yet they don't tap it. They simply do not care.

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Beautifully put, Peg. And so true. Like I said, take pride in what you show the world. Thanks so much for commenting here. Lynda

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      Peg Cole 7 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Actors are continuously working on their craft, as are artisans, sports players and others who are not satisfied with mediocre performance. As writers, we should carefully consider the tools of our trade and select only the finest and best tools for the job to ensure that our words serve us well.

      As the BeeGees said, "It's only words, but words are all I have to take your heart away."

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      True Nan, but not the point. We're not suggesting perfection. We're saying if you call yourself a writer, then at least understand the craft. I'm very sure the public doesn't want to read much of what we see around us. You'd be surprised at how discerning the public can be. Publishing copy filled with errors, poor writing, bad grammar and no construction will not win you fans.

      Nor does slapping up any dashed-off thing on the internet and calling yourself a writer. People do know good from bad. Believe me.

      Thanks for commenting. Lynda

    • Nan Mynatt profile image

      Nan Mynatt 7 years ago from Illinois

      Lynda, we have in our city a writer who was a best seller with the worst book I have ever read. She is writing to a special audience and they buy what she says. Writing a perfect book will not produce sales, people don't know good from bad, they only want the plot or story. If we are perfect it pleases only ourselves and may not please the public.

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Thank you anonymous commenter, whoever you are. You are obviously erudite, intelligent and a decent writer yourself. Your contribution is very much appreciated.

      Hi UlrikeGrace. I have always enjoyed your work here, and yes, you are right, you need to work on style. But voice you have aplenty. Seeing as this has turned into a place for truth, and what-the dickens, might as well alienate everyone: I have always wanted to edit your work. You so often come so close to being outstanding, BUT... And it is only practice and learning some skills that keep you from being an outstanding writer. If you want, I'd gladly do an edit for you to show you some of what I mean. Meant with all the best of intentions.

      Hi Daniel, yes writing is sharing your mind with the rest of the world, or at least should be. Though I doubt anyone really needs to share the benefits of the latest telephone gadget. (Not you. Not talking about you.) However, we must ensure that the piece of mind we are sharing is worthy of being shared, and that we share it in an entertaining and polished manner. Thanks so much for commenting here.

      Hi Janny. Interesting you should be questioning such things as the same time as I. I know you are ear deep in content article writing, and I know nothing kills the writer's soul faster than that. What you need to do is write some far-out, fabulous fiction and get your juices flowing again.

      Hi Mr Happy. Yes I know you reserve your writing for issues you consider important. I've always enjoyed your work and will continue to do so. Doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement -- we all have that.

      Thanks all. Lynda

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 7 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      It is true that we are all writers (at least those who are literate) but we should not all write. I think some people write because they want to make money. I also met several retired men in my years at a publishing house, who I think had a fetish with publishing a book - no matter how crappy their personal story was. They just wanted to see their name on a cover page.

      When I sit to write, I do so because I have something to say, not because "Hey, I haven't written in so long, I should write" or "It's that time again - have to go write" ...

      No. I love to write and I do so when I have something to say, whether to other people or to myself (to read at a later date). There is no writer's block with me because I know what I will write before I sit down to write it. I write in my head while I drive the sixty thousand kilometers per year. When I have some time I transfer the words from my mind to paper (or the computer).

      I think some people try too hard. You either got it or you don't. "It" being the love for writing. Without it, one can have the best teachers in the world and nothing will come out of it. It's the same with cooking. The food I cook, generally tastes better than the average person's because I include love.

      All the best!

    • JannyC profile image

      JannyC 7 years ago

      This was beautiful. I was seriously just pondering this question to myself of late...well it was actually it was yesterday. Everyone can write that is so true, but there is a difference from writing and being a writer. I then find this hub for I got some down time to catch up on my fave hubbers. Strange how your questions get answered sometimes. Thank you so much for this hub. I learn so much from you.

    • danieliuhasz profile image

      danieliuhasz 7 years ago from Romania

      Great! Absolutely great!

      I guess that writing is just a piece of mind one shares with the world. Or at least this is what I think of myself. Up to this point I have not made a fortune out of writing so I guess it is not a job. It is a way to state what I think with the limitation of words, because it is always a hard task to transmit feelings through words.

      All the best!

    • UlrikeGrace profile image

      UlrikeGrace 7 years ago from Canada

      Oh Lynda!

      This is such a good hub, and well needed if heeded.

      I believe that keeping a proper perspective on our "writing" keeps us grounded and hence better writing will come forth. I am constantly amazed at people who call them selves writers or "wanna-be" writers that do not read! How can you write with heart if you do not even like to read.

      I too have at times been disappointed by the content on the hub pages. However, it is because of genuine writers, like you and others, that I have continued to come back and learn by "reading" (*smile*). Then I also attempt to share from my own heart, both life experiences and the "stories" that are in my heart.

      The grammar I am always actively working at learning and improving. In fact, I have just sent for a course from The Teaching Company called, "Building Great Sentences". Grammar is my nemisis, and I take every opportunity to learn how to defeat it!

      Bless you Lynda and thanks for the encouraging, grounding Hub! Keep it up! We need staight up encouragers like you. Ulrike Grace

    • profile image

       7 years ago

      As always, Lynda, you hit a home run. When Richard Brautigan's daughter asked him, "What makes a good writer?" He replied, "twenty years."

      As in any profession, the top five percent of the populated masses in the world of writing are a gifted writers competition. However, with the advent of easy access to creating the printed word via computers, Spellcheck and readability scales--we now have the crammed lanes of traffic that are filled with bad driving (writing) habits.

      I know when perusing the miles and miles of blog, well-followed, blog writers a feeling of shock came to me. These people don't know how to write--they've never taken the time to learn structure, punctuation, grammar or spelling.

      HubPages, sadly, is filled with advertisers, jotters of frivolous ideas and poor writers. It is up to the reader to decide.

      The beauty of truth in writing is...the sentence remains the same. A good writer will, like you, have a dictionary, thesaurus and copy of Strunk & White's Elements of Style. To create a well-written piece, a writer still has to have some talent. And said writer, must use that talent.

      As King puts it in his memoire, "whatever you do--do not come to this blank page lightly. For God's sake, have something to say!"

      The reality of our computer age is the diminishing quality of good writing, unique ideas and better structures in sentences and paragraphs that push the limits of the English language.

      If we are going to break the rules of grammar? Let it be because we knew which rules we were breaking. The sad truth, as you have indicated in this hub, is the increasing domain of our human apathy?

      An artist cares--and so I thank you for your artistic endeavour in this article. Keep up the hope that there are seven billion writers out there. I would have to disagree to that.

      Illiteracy is still on the rise, but poverty in the content of online publishing articles is on the rise, as well.

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Hi Suzy Dee, Your comment came in while I was answering the others, and then I had to take some time and read one of your hubs. We are not yet acquainted. So many good articles to read, so little time. You have a clear grasp of the mechanics, this is obvious. Your writing is succint and informative. You're using the 'content article' approach, providing information and facts and it is well done. I'd prefer to see a little more of the author in the work, but that's just my preference. I'd like to have seen your opinions about the changes in teacher education, not just the facts. I don't do content articles; everything I write is from a personal perspective, but that is simply my choice. And my style.

      As for your book, go for it. If you want some direction along the way, look at my Good Writing articles which outline plotting, character development, etc. And if you want help, feel free to contact me through my editing site. I work with many first time authors. Thanks. Lynda

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Hi tonymac. I read your work often, though I don't leave many comments. You always write on such interesting subjects and your work is polished, a treat. I know what you mean when you speak of poor efforts being highly scored. Even worse, I'm often annoyed by the fact that I've written here for a year and a half and my author scores is the same as a newbie with two hubs, and some of the worst English I've ever seen. I was a 99 the other morning for a fleeting second. An hour later I was a 94. One of my hubs has had 14,000 views and gets anywhere from 30 to 90 views a day, and it's an 80. I long ago gave up trying to figure out the underlying virtue of these scores. I guess the purpose is to discourage greater effort and to push us to leave... I suspect my scores reflect the idea I don't care about the money side and often write hubs I deem not-commercial. After all, a hub with nothing but photographs is rated higher than many of mine which reflect days of work. Silly me to think writing quality has anything to do with scores! Silly you, too.

      Yes, Andrew. The Gutenberg press published Bibles, but only after 1200 years of keeping the word of God for the ruling class (ie the Church.)

      Hi Bobbirant, I too have difficulties with the keyboard because I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and my fingers don't do what my mind wants. And often little typos get away with detection. Still, there's a big difference between a little typo and plain bad writing. Some of the trash posted on this site isn't worthy of a eight-year-old. You are not among those I address. I've read quite a few of your hubs. They're good, interesting. You are still developing your voice and style, but off to a good start. And comments don't count. They're not supposed to be works of art. I don't worry so much about skill in comments.

      Thanks Eiddwen. Glad you found my thoughts here of interest and useful.

      Thanks to all of you. Lynda

    • SUSIE DUZY profile image

      SUSIE DUZY 7 years ago from Delray Beach, Florida

      I love to write and I have a story to tell. I have been told by many, many people that I should write a book, but I cannot seem to get it going.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 7 years ago from Wales

      This was a brilliantly written and well presented hub. All that hard work obviously paid off.

      A useful and up here.

      Take care


    • BobbiRant profile image

      BobbiRant 7 years ago from New York

      On comments, using my laptop, many times causes me to hit the wrong key or missing a key, yes I need to proof read it, but sometimes something slips by when I'm in a hurry. Writing sites are very popular, appealing to our vain side to be'published, make money, to be out there for all to read.' Great hub.

    • AndrewGee profile image

      AndrewGee 7 years ago

      don't forget that the first printing press was invented so that the Bible, and hence glory of God, could be provided to the common man...

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 7 years ago from South Africa

      A great Hub, one which I thoroughly enjoyed, and agreed with. I have to confess that I am sometimes a little disappointed on HubPages because there are so many here, whom I don't mean to belittle in any way, who don't seem to know too much about writing and yet get a great deal of support and consequently high scores. It is a very fine line, I think, between writing to really communicate and writing to gratify self. Obviously all writers want self-gratification, but if that is the only motive then the writing becomes only self-serving and ultimately boring.

      I see many people say they write "because I have to!" And I think, "well fine, but I don't have to read it." Inflicting writing on others which is simply rambling self-indulgence is, apart from anything else, simply bad manners.

      I write about things that I feel strongly about and want to get a conversation going. I write about what I love and want to share with others because I think they might find it entertaining and perhaps, even useful.

      Thanks for a really good and interesting Hub. I enjoyed the read.

      Love and peace


    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Sorry Michael Adams. Your little comment got lost for a bit. Thanks for reading and commenting. Lynda

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Thanks drbj. Not much chaff on yours either. (A few strange vegetables, perhaps -- that one was SO bad!) Thanks for dropping by. Lynda

      Oh no, Will Starr. I didn't think you did. Thanks for the awesome. Lynda

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      "If you're posting your writing for the public and calling yourself a writer, then at least learn basic construction and proof read your work."

      Absolutely, and I didn't mean to infer otherwise.

      Great Hub by the way. Voted up and awesome.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 7 years ago from south Florida

      Before Hubpages and blogs and the Internet, writers used journals and private diaries to record their thoughts and opinions, personal and otherwise.

      Now it is simple to expose all those writings to anyone and everyone at no cost and with comparatively little effort.

      So we, the readers, must separate the wheat from the chaff and sometimes chafe at the task. But I never find chaff on your hubs, Lynda. Only wisdom and heart.

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      So very true, Will Starr. But I'll bet your great-great uncle didn't prance around saying "I'm a writer! Yes sir, I'm a writer!" No, he kept a journal, like many others and he kept it as a private matter.

      If you're posting your writing for the public and calling yourself a writer, then at least learn basic construction and proof read your work. By all means write for the sheer joy of it. But publish? Are anyone's God-given talents so lacking or so magnificent they can't be bothered to read it over once or twice to make sure it makes sense?

      You don't have to be a great writer to write. But at least try and be an acceptable and literate one.

      By the way, I enjoy your writing a lot.

      I thank you for commenting here. Much appreciated. Lynda

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      My grandmother's great uncle kept a Civil War journal, and his command of the language was awful. He couldn’t spell, punctuate, or write a complete sentence, let alone form a paragraph, but the content of his writings are treasured today by historians hungry for scraps of information.

      I agree with the author. If you want to write, learn the basics, and learn them well, but even if you are limited by your God-given abilities, go ahead and write. Someone may someday treasure your words, even if it is just your own family.

      Great writing requires both a hard earned command of the basics and raw talent. One can be acquired but the other is a gift.

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Thank you Darlene. Yes, the hubs of yours I've read certainly hold voice and style, and your mechanics are ... interesting. The grammar is fine most of the time, in that we can write in the vernacular of our space and time, and you do not commit the great sins of not knowing when a sentences begins or ends, or lump everything into one paragraph. (Not to say there's no room for upward movement. One or two do seem as though you didn't read them through before posting. I say this not to be mean, but to encourage you to post the best work you can. Slow down and proof read -- there. How nervy of me!) Writing that is colorful, that carries the personality of the writer is good writing. Thanks so much for commenting here. Lynda

    • Darlene Sabella profile image

      Darlene Sabella 7 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

      Hello dear lmmartin when I first saw the title in my email, what makes a good writer, I thought a big mouth like mine...LOL sure enough when I went to your hub the first picture just made me go into a fit of laughter. Everyone that reads my hubs tell me I show so much passion. I might not be a great writer as far as grammer goes, but I express better through writing the taling and alway have. My poor exhusband would find notes of love, or being upset, or jokes or stories everytime he opened something personal of his. So I hear you load and clear. Excellent hub, I rate you up peace & love darski

    • Michael Adams1959 profile image

      Michael Adams1959 7 years ago from Wherever God leads us.

      Excellent look at writing thanks for ~~~writing~~~ this hub!

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Thanks Docmo. Your writing is excellent, as are your hubs on the craft. You have both voice and style and I enjoy your work very much. No, I'm not pointing a finger at you. You have much to offer the beginners here and I hope they take note. Lynda

      Hi resspenser. You are another writer I enjoy. Your writing has a unique style. One can almost hear you speaking and even your accent comes across. This is good. This is voice. An excellent foundation and you are working on the mechanics -- this I know. If I compare your early hubs to your later ones, your evolution is apparent. Good work. (I still want to see more of Justice.) Lynda

    • resspenser profile image

      Ronnie Sowell 7 years ago from South Carolina

      Excellent thought on the craft. Thanks for writing it!

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 7 years ago from UK

      Well said! There is so much fluff out there dashed without any thought or consideration given to the written art of communication ( I hope I am not guilty of such misdemeanour! ) I feel that reading, reflecting and self- evaluating one's own output is a key skill for improvement. I am glad people make an effort and it is endearing to see the gauche efforts to put down thoughts to paper or screen- after all we all have to start somewhere - but as you say taking the time to practice, learn and hone would make the messy world of online scribblers a much better learning environment. Great work!