The key to good writing

A lot of people who come to writing workshops express feelings of anxiety in case they won’t be able to write something ‘good.’ I imagine this is because most of us learn to write at school, where everything is judged and graded.

Learning to identify ‘good’ writing at school and university completely cured me of the wish to write. It ebbed away from being a passion in childhood to a listless ghost. But how can you say what makes ‘good’ writing? I personally like a story which rattles along, without too much description or depth, so for me Agatha Christie is a much better writer than Virginia Woolf. Seriously.

You won’t please everybody with your writing, so don’t try. Let the kind of thing you enjoy reading be your compass and write to please yourself, because that’s the surest way to develop your own authentic voice.

I’m firmly in the practice school of writing which, instead of starting from theory and technique, starts from finding out you want to say. If you write whatever you want to write, uncritically, you will enjoy it more; you will do it more often, and your writing style will improve through practice.

So the key to good writing is love. Love your ideas, love writing them down, love the adventure. Don’t let the critic in until you have something you like so much that you will love the work of redrafting.

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