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Writing, Among Other Things

Where I Disagree with Stephen King!

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imagesRecently, I was reading Stephen King’s book, On Writing (a book you must read, if you haven’t), and I came across this interesting comment:

 “… while it is impossible to make a competent writer out of a bad writer, and while it is equally impossible to make a great writer out of a good one, it is possible, with lots of hard work , dedication, and timely help, to make a good writer out of a merely competent one.”

I was surprised on reading this, because most of my life I have believed that with hard work and dedication anything can be achieved. So, why should it be impossible to become a great writer, even if you are a bad one today, or even if you are not a writer at all?

But here is Stephen King, a writer whose books have sold more than 350 million copies worldwide, telling you that if you are a bad writer today, you can not even become a competent writer. And you thought you were going to become a great writer. Stephen King’s word, even if they are fallacious, can definitely not be ignored.

I think When Stephen King talks about the quality of writers, he is talking more in terms of talent than anything else. If you have no talent for writing, there is nothing you can’t do about it. A bad writer, therefore, would be someone with no talent and a competent writer would be someone with average talent, but who is not making the best of what he, or she, has. I agree with King then, when he says that you can’t make a competent writer out of a bad writer.

Similarly, a great writer is someone with a huge amount of talent, while a good writer is someone with average talent making the best of what he has. Going by this definition, I would tend to agree with King when he says that it is impossible to make a great writer out of good writer. King’s contention that a merely competent writer can become a good writer with hard work and dedication also makes sense then, because both these categories of writers have equal amount of talent and the difference lies in the way they are using their talents.

Here is where I stop agreeing with Stephen King.

Writing is not just about talent. Talent may form an important part of a writer, but it is not the only thing. Genius, as they say, is 1 % inspiration and 99 % perspiration. They might have got their percentages wrong, but the role of perspiration in forming a genius can not be denied.

So, I disagree with Stephen King, because whatever kind of writer you are today, you can always become a better writer tomorrow. The scale for writers, if such a scale exists, is not divided into discrete points but is a continuous range where you can always strive to be better.

The important thing is to be able to identify what your strengths and weaknesses are and work on them accordingly to achieve your desired goal. If it is to become a great writer, then so be it.

 (Image courtesy: guardian.co.uk)

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4 Comments

  1. My favorite quote I keep on my desk by Daniel Pink:

    Don’t worry bout what other people think. And work harder. Persistence almost always trumps talent.

  2. @Julie I think I need to have that on one of my walls as well. 🙂

  3. I think you’ve got it exactly right. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to improve, but it is possible!

  4. @Melanie Exactly! 🙂

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