When I start hearing the same thing from different clients, I take note. And I hear this one over and over again:
“I would love to write a book. I’m just a bad writer.”
Allow me to Dwight Schrute this one and claim FALSE. You’re not a bad writer. Maybe you’ve built up that limiting belief in your head based on what or who you think a “writer” should be, but that certainly doesn’t make such a broad, blanket statement true.
Most of us are taught reading and writing in elementary school, so we assume it’s something everyone should just “know” how to do. Because writing is such a ubiquitous part of our culture and our education system, we forget that writing isn’t just a skill, it’s a skillset. Heck, it’s an art. And like any skill or art, talent, diligent study, and deliberate practice play a huge part in the end product.
You wouldn’t pick up a paintbrush for the first time, try to paint a hyperrealist portrait of your dog, then conclude you totally suck because your first effort wasn’t successful. If you have a keen level of spatial intelligence, maybe you could assemble a beautiful, homemade rocking chair out of random boards you found in your local dumpster; but most of us would only (if ever) achieve that level of woodworking mastery through hours of tutelage and diligent practice.
We know it’s unreasonable to expect automatic mastery of a skill we’ve never trained in or practiced. So why do we shame and limit ourselves for being “bad at writing?”
If you feel you have a book in your heart (I truly believe everyone does), but the “bad writer lie” has intimidated and limited you, I would like to invite you to join me in dissecting the three most common fallacies I hear as an author, ghostwriter, editor, and publishing professional.
No, you’re not a bad writer. Here’s why.
Untruth #1: “I can’t write because I don’t have anything to say.”
It’s everyone’s nightmare: Getting to the front of the stage, the classroom, or the board meeting to give that big message/presentation, opening your mouth, then…
Silence. Brain fart. Complete and utter awkward, tongue-tied emptiness.
When I speak with individuals about what I do and how I bring stories to life, I’m often met with a note of personal frustration or even downright despair.
“I would love to write a book,” they say almost woefully. “But I don’t have anything good to say. Who would ever want to read what I write?”
What a question. Who would ever want to read what I write?
If you’ve ever felt something similar, I want you to think about what makes a compelling main character in any book or movie. It’s not their perfection. It’s not their paradisical, happy-go-lucky lives. What makes a standout main character is the challenge, the obstacles they face to accomplish something and (hopefully) become a better person in the process.
To say you have no story is to say you’ve faced no challenge. And that, my friend, is complete and utter hogwash.
If you’ve ever had a problem in your life that you’ve faced and overcome, you have a story. Venturing out, challenging an obstacle, and dealing with the aftermath is the barebones structure of every tale ever told. Hero slays the dragon. Hobbit throws a ring into a volcano. Secret agent takes down maniacal millionaire and saves the world. The examples go on and on.
Life, by nature, is a story all its own.
If you’ve ever wanted something you didn’t have, been victimized by unforeseen forces, fought for a better life for yourself and your family, locked your car keys inside your truck—you have a story to tell. And who wants to read it? People who are riding the tumultuously beautiful waves of chaos right beside you. We read to laugh. We read to understand. We read to learn, and we read to feel seen.Who are you to say your story isn’t important? Someone, somewhere, could be living an adventure just like yours.
Untruth #2: “I can’t write because I don’t know where to put the commas.”
Here’s where we hit the issue of technicalities. You know what you want to say, but you’re worried that you don’t have the grammatical knowhow to produce a clean, professional-looking manuscript. And if you can’t produce a clean, professional-looking manuscript, aren’t you subjecting yourself to shame and ridicule?
Here’s a fact: No one writes the perfect first draft. EVER.
In fact, most authors go through multiple drafts (I usually top off at five to seven) before their editor even sees their manuscript.
Which brings me to my second point: All authors have editors. ALL of them. Even editors like myself have editors. I highly advise against self-editing for a myriad of reasons, but the fact of the matter is, if you’re waiting to write a book until you’ve mastered every single rule of grammar and style, you’re going to be waiting forever.
There is a reason that being a professional editor is a respected, lucrative vocation. Editors work with authors on numerous levels through multiple passes of a manuscript, helping the author shape their story, tie up plot threads, use the correct preposition, and of course, properly employ the Oxford comma.
No author’s manuscript is perfectly grammaticized, and no one in the industry expects it to be. When you’ve truly put your best foot forward with your story, relax. Your publishing team, including your editor, proofreaders, and beta readers, will have your back.
Untruth #3: “I can’t write because I don’t know where to start or how to tell my story.”
If editing has to do with the what you write, storycraft would be the how. Storycraft—the reverent art of weaving a series of events into an engaging, coherent narrative—is much different than grammatical mechanics. Storycraft is hooking a reader at the beginning, inviting them on an adventure throughout the middle, and tying all those seemingly separate plot threads into a satisfying, unforgettable end.
Some people have an innate sense of storycraft, but if you’re more apt to open your word processer and stare at a blank page for three hours, don’t despair. Some people have a natural knack for décor, fashion, or even calculus, but that doesn’t mean all these skills can’t be learned. There are countless methods for deconstructing engaging plot structures like the Save the Cat! beat sheet and Joseph Campbell’s masterwork, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Writers have studied how to write for hundreds of years, and if you’re feeling completely lost with starting, structuring, and ending a compelling narrative, you’re not alone.
As with the technical side of writing, a good team can be there to support you through the brainstorming and development of your book. Many editors (including myself) will help their authors work through outlining both chapter-level and big picture concepts, and specialized book coaches are also available for support throughout the entire writing process.
I’m sure you’re starting to pick up on a theme here. No matter where you are in your writing process and what may be holding you back, remember that no author completes their publishing journey alone. Writing and publishing a book is a daunting task unfamiliar to most people. No one expects a new author (or even a veteran author, for that matter) to be a subject matter expert in every part of the process.
You’re not a bad writer. Not in the slightest! You’re just attempting to undertake a complex, highly specialized task you’ve never done before.
If you’re feeling lost, stuck, or even intimidated about writing and sharing your story, why not reach out for a complimentary consultation with LoftHouse Publishing?
The question isn’t if you have a story worth telling. It’s how to find the publishing option that’s right for you.