November 24, 2014The secret ingredient that makes a writer good…

What makes a good writer? You could say it’s experience. You might say it’s how they were taught. Or how much they’ve read.

But while these are the ingredients of what makes a good writer, they’re not what makes a writer good.

That’s something that can’t be learned from a book. Or from a blog like this.

(But don’t stop reading just yet).

The thing that makes a writer good is the same thing that makes an actor good, a singer good, a sportsman good, a professional poker player good.

It’s confidence.

That’s what makes the difference between ordinary and extraordinary.

Think of some of your favourite singers. I don’t know who yours are, so I’ll use a couple of mine. Have you ever heard Ian Curtis live? The man just shouted into the mic. And Jarvis Cocker… could anyone else get away with singing some of those lyrics without peals of laughter? Somehow he gets it just right.

I look back on some of the stuff I was writing when I was just starting out. I can feel the raw energy, the confidence, even if the words themselves are sometimes wrong. Then I look at some of my more recent work, polished to perfection. I worry that the rough, raw stuff is better.

Confidence and tone of voice are inextricably linked. The difference between an Ian Curtis or an Ian Brown — neither of whom are the world’s greatest singers – and you or I standing up and doing karaoke is that in addition to being singers, they’re performers.

Heck, look at the world of pop music. Half of them can’t even sing. But they perform.

And that’s the secret to being a good writer. Don’t be a writer, be a performer.

Whatever it is in your life that you love, get up and perform it. Become comfortable standing in front of a crowd. Give it your all. Whether that’s music or acting or stand up comedy (I’ve known great writers who’ve done all of these things).

Because that’s where you get your confidence from. Learning how to perform. Not learning how to write.

Raymond Chandler once said:

“Everything a writer learns about the art or craft of fiction takes just a little away from his need or desire to write at all. In the end he knows all the tricks and has nothing to say.”

Instead of learning how to write, how will you learn how to perform?

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This entry was posted on Monday, November 24th, 2014 at 12:33 pm and is filed under Blog, Copywriting. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.


  1. I think you’re spot on, Alastaire. We can smell confidence and we want to breathe it in deep. It’s desirable, and without it, we ain’t selling nothin’!

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