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Wednesday, 25 April 2012

What makes a good writer?


A lot of people have said to me in the past 'I love reading your letters' or 'I love reading your emails'. In my earlier years people said I should be a writer.

I've often wondered: 'What's the secret?' Or even, what are the secrets? What am I doing that makes the words special to others? It's only now, in my adult years, that I've finally come to a few conclusions:

Show your soul
All writers have something of the romantic... of the idealist... of the dreamer in them. That's my personal belief. In all the letters and emails I've ever written, I've hardly ever held back. Some of my deepest feelings - love, joy, sorrows, fears, hopes, aspirations, wishes, regrets - have permeated the pages or the screen. I've put a lot of myself into the words. By doing it, I've connected with the reader.

Love what you do
Possibly the key to success in anything we do, not just to writing well. Enjoy what you do and you'll do it so much better. I love writing. I love it! And back in my years as a translator, some of my very best literary translations came from my passion for words, from the wish to reproduce the original text's elegance for the reader.  

Be original
This has a lot to do with personal perception. The work of the Impressionist artists was great because they painted scenes they way they perceived them, not the way artistic norms dictated. For instance, they would sometimes paint hazy grey skies instead of clear blue ones, because that was the impression they had of the sky on the day. 

And so you must be original with your words. Avoid clich├ęs. Describe things as you perceive them. The chances are your description will be much more original. An honest description is much more rewarding both for you as a writer and for your reader.   

Be a bookworm
As well as being passionate about writing your own stuff, be passionate about other people's stuff. See how others express themselves. Find out what themes interest you. Discover new authors, new words, new ideas, new perspectives, new narrative techniques and even new worlds. Develop your own style. There's more fact in fiction than you'd imagine.

Time to spare a few thoughts?
And so I snap out of 'reflexive writer mode' now, to ask what you think makes a good writer. Do you agree wholeheartedly with me, or do you disagree violently! 

In fact, what do you think about this blog? Have I been practising what I've preached today? Or should I pick up a few more books and learn from the masters? Do tell!

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