For those who are writers – or work with them – it may be taken for granted that writers write because that’s what they do. It’s who they are. But what attributes really describe a great writer?
1. The best writer knows he or she needs to give way to a great editor, and to see the collaboration as a means to making one’s voice powerful.
2. The great writer has something to say about something. Always. Just as some people can talk for hours at a time, writers can pen their insights, views, and opinions non-stop.
3. They also know that good writing is not about quantity, but quality. Using an economy of words and minimal set up to make a point or advance a storyline are always appreciated.
4. They possess a strong vocabulary. The great writer doesn’t have to toss around SAT words, but he or she should inject a variety of terms, words, and references that reflect a historical perspective, trendy awareness, and cultural diversity.
5. The best writers have a singular message to get out. They are driven by convictions and passionately lobby for them. Writers are neither natural nor indifferent. They are guided by a bias that informs their writing.
6. The best writers challenge us. They don’t merely tell us what we want to hear or expect to experience. Top-shelf writing raises questions, rankles the establishment, speaks up for the disenfranchised, and gives legitimacy to ideas never before discussed or new spins to unfairly dismissed proposals.
7. They give us context and perspective. They help us understand where we come from, who we are now, and enlighten us to the possibilities of what could, or even should, be.
8. They usually aim to compensate, or right some wrong that reality has brought upon us. They give us hope with and desire. They help us experience what isn’t, and give shape to the formless.
9. The elite writers tap into our emotions and state of mind. They give us fear, lust, hope, ego, and anger. They let parts of ourselves come out to dance when no one else is looking.
10. They tell us we are not alone. Our thoughts, our past, and our lives seem to have value when we read a book. Our history becomes the litmus test by which we judge a book, but above all, writers comfort us and fuel us with support.
11. Terrific writers make us think, even second-guess our assumptions and question our viewpoints. They force us to come around and see things from their perspective – or they push us further away and form a completely opposite view.
12. They can make us feel better about ourselves by using humor or tragedy. They can become inspiring to us. Words can lift and transform anyone.
13. Great writers are willing to suspend their beliefs and understanding of reality in order to create whole new worlds that actually help us live in the present one.
14. They allow their personal experiences to guide their writings. Their honesty and truths help demonstrate lessons we could never learn unless we actually experienced what they did.
15. Above all, the best writers are great because they strive to be so. They dedicate themselves, proudly, to live their craft and to experience every action and thought with an eye on their writing. Nothing happens to them means more than how they’ll write it. The great writers strive to improve, to make their work better even by installing the slightest adjustment. They are always writing, even when they’re not.