Writing… Just about everyone can do it, but very few people can do it well. This is because the skills needed to be a good writer stretch far beyond just being able to “put words on a page”, and the hallmarks of quality are far more subtle than merely understanding the basics of grammar and punctuation.
For one thing, there is the matter of voice. I am writing this blog to you now as me, Mike, and I am writing with the confidence of someone who feels (rightly or wrongly) that he has a level of understanding of the subject being discussed. This voice is a male voice, and it’s a confident voice – and sometimes it may be tinged humour or irony. But importantly, it’s not the only voice that I possess. When I am ghost writing articles, or producing press releases for the healthcare sector for example, I adopt a completely different voice to that with which I am speaking to you now; I am no longer “Mike”, but I am someone else completely.
Voice then is just one of many different subtle factors at play in any form of written communication, and there are literally hundreds, if not thousands of books on the market designed to help you learn “how to write” and how to improve the quality of your writing.
The thing is none of them are worth anything.
The reason these books are worth so little is because they all roughly say the same thing, and none of them are any substitute for reading widely, and taking that most crucial of steps: sitting down to actually write something .
It shocks me to think just how much money the major publishing houses must make from the romantic notion that so many wannabe writers have that one day they may become the next J.K.Rowling or Stephen King. Aside from the fact to become either one of these authors you need an awful lot of luck, to truly improve your writing you don’t need writing guides – you need to read as much as you can, then you need to actually sit down and do some writing.
There is no romance, there is no “quick fix” – there is just an awful lot of hard work.
So, instead of placing your faith in countless “writing for dummies” guides, I say this: save your money. Use the library if you have to, but for goodness sake don’t think that by using these books you are going to get any better at what you do. Writing takes time, it takes dedication, and more than anything, it takes an awfully thick skin. You are far better off spending your money on a good dictionary, a pad, some pens, and a large jar of coffee!