I don’t often dispense writing advice. In a lot of ways, I don’t think I’ve yet earned that right. I’m not a million seller. There’s not a movie to be based on my works. And I’m not an industry insider. The only source from which I can draw my advice is my own admittedly-limited experience (and that of my friends).
But I’m going to dish some out anyway.
This weekend on my Tumblr feed, I ran across this quote:
“The difference between good writers and bad writers has little to do with skill. It has to do with perseverance. Bad writers quit. Good writers keep going. That’s all there is to it.”
I found this an objectionable statement, equating perseverance with ‘good writing’. I suspect that the author meant something more like “perseverance is required for successful publication“, but that’s not what he said.*
He -said- that people who quit writing aren’t good writers.
And that’s wrong. There are plenty of brilliant writers out there who are no longer publishing. This industry is brutal, and navigating its vagaries can be exhausting for an able-bodied young person with ample spare time. For someone who’s ill; for someone whose finances barely allow them time to sleep,much less write; for someone who has 12 other projects in the work or 3 kids at home….sometimes pursuit of publication just isn’t in the cards. Not at the moment. Perhaps not ever.
That doesn’t make them a BAD writer.
For me, it was hard to balance work with writing. I was a teacher, and every moment that I spent writing was time taken away from my students’ possible futures. (This is a guilt thing). It was hard for me to work on writing when I needed to make lesson plans and grade and write grants and scholarships. So when I was teaching, I wrote very little save for during those 8 weeks of summer. That didn’t make me a BAD writer.
So my main advice here is to look at the person who’s giving you advice. In the case of the guy above, he seems to be a self-help guru with 4 books published (the most recent by his own press). Yes, he’s a big seller (on Amazon), but has he ever tried to pitch a fantasy novel to one of the Big 5? Has he ever submitted to Clarkesworld? Has he ever tried to publish in your market?
Perhaps his advice isn’t the best match, then.
For me, the pithy statement above was simply miss-aimed. Equating talent and skill with persistence doesn’t work for me, no matter how good a little soundbite it makes.
*And yes, I’m aware that this might be out of context. I haven’t read the book. However, alone and with no context is how I encountered it being touted on Tumblr…