Anyone Can Write, I Think

Commentary by Zoltan James

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The writing critique group that I belong to has developed its own writer’s blog, of which I will be a frequent contributor.  Here’s my first post, which went live today.  You can see the original at:

Ever since the first caveman tried to express himself with rudimentary drawings, mankind has had a propensity to write. Even those first drawings told stories, describing the hunt for the woolly mammoth, the fear, the courage, and the requisite meeting at the bar afterward to celebrate the kill over a glass of Merlot. Don’t hold me to it, but I think I read that somewhere.

But modern writing, as we know it, and as we practice it, I’ve decided, is easy. Now hear (read) me out, before you start hurling your shoes.

My thesis is that anyone can write. Anyone can tell a story. Anyone can string together a few thoughts. What’s hard is the “thinking.”

It’s the “thinking,” me thinks, that separates the great writer from the good writer.  Great writers “think” about creating lifelike characters who speak like real people and have emotions we can identify with. Great writers “think” about the form of the story: how it begins in such a compelling way that it grabs our attention; how it’s constructed so that we want to keep reading even while the house is burning down around us; and how does this story end in such a way that we never saw it coming, or better yet, never want it to end.

Some writers think through these issues before they set Bic to paper; or fingers to keyboard. They may diagram the story, or outline it, whatever it takes to make sure no pet rock is left unturned. Other writers let it “free flow.”  They just write fast and furious and let the logic or illogic fall wherever it may. It doesn’t matter that in Chapter One, the killer is a one-armed blonde with a hairy armpit, and then in Chapter Two, she’s a brunette beauty who gives full-body hugs with both arms. Hey, they’re just details. But, those writers, when they have finished their novel, I’ve learned, then return to the beginning and start the hard work of “thinking” to make sure everything fits together like a fine-tuned Swiss watch.

There is no right or wrong way with how writers approach their work. But, now you should decide if you want to be a great writer, or just a good writer. Think about it.


1 Comment

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One response to “Anyone Can Write, I Think

  1. Chris Devlin

    Thought-provoking, ZJ. Er, Zoltan. Cheers!

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