Are You a Good Writer?

February 4, 2019

At intervals throughout your journey, you’ve probably wondered whether you’re a good writer. Unfortunately, I can’t sympathize because that thought hasn’t occasionally crossed my mind.


It’s crossed my mind dozens, hundreds, thousands of times. Yearly, weekly, daily, until doubts have frozen my keyboard and encased my creativity in the ice of fear. Anxiety sometimes arises when I see a bestseller and realize my book can’t compare, after I receive a blistering critique, or while I’m banging my head on my desk.


But whenever and wherever the fear originates, the only way to melt it is by asking myself, What is the definition of a good writer? I used to have misconceptions about it, and if you read on, you may discover that you’re not such a horrible writer after all.


Good Writers Are Conscious of Their Weaknesses

Before I go any further, I want you to know that bad writers do exist. But, contrary to what you might assume, a bad writer isn’t someone who makes mistakes. A bad writer is someone who is unaware or (even worse) denies that his writing has flaws. His claim of perfection prevents him from growing in his craft. Try to critique or edit a bad writer’s work, and he’ll accuse you of proclaiming holy war.


In contrast, a good writer acknowledges that she has room to improve. She gobbles up constructive criticism (or she does for the most part, since the sight of red ink can be unnerving) and seriously considers advice. However, a good writer does more than recognize her faults. A bad writer bemoans his messy manuscript and dooms himself to hopelessness. A good writer, after shedding a few tears, wipes her cheeks and seeks to repair her story. Though she won’t always succeed and might repeat the same errors, she is actively striving to overcome her weaknesses.


Ironically, being skilled at writing isn’t entirely synonymous with being a good writer. I sound like I’m contradicting myself, don’t I? The quality of your work and the depth of your knowledge determines whether you’re skilled. But being a good writer involves fostering the mindset and habits that will lead you to become proficient at writing. Even if you’re just beginning to learn the ins and outs of story craft, pursuit of excellence will eventually sand out your rough edges, and in the meantime you’re exhibiting the traits of a good writer.


Good Writers Persevere

During childhood, I’m sure you heard your parents say, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” A good writer chips at obstacles until a crack forms. She keeps sending out queries after her fiftieth rejection, pounding the keyboard when the well of inspiration has run dry, and experimenting with marketing methods even when no one’s buying books.


This doesn’t mean a good writer is never tempted to give up. I’ve threatened to quit more times than I’d care to admit. I remember when I hit a low spot in my writing career. My dreams of publication seemed unattainable. No one was reading my blog. My WIP was a disaster waiting to be read. For a few days, I abandoned my aspirations. But those were some of the most unhappy days of my life. No matter how discouraged I felt, I couldn’t quit, because telling stories is a part of me. A good writer may take a detour for a week or two, but ultimately she returns to the path and continues moving forward.


Good Writers Give Their All

One of the most obvious, and important, characteristics of a good writer is diligence, because it will transform a good writer into a great one. The passion and dedication of the rare people who go the extra mile often gets noticed.


What does this exertion look like? A frenzied attack on your keyboard? A marketing snowball you throw in people’s faces? Nope. You need to rewrite your story. Then rewrite the story you rewrote. And rewrite the twice rewritten story. You get the idea.


Colossians 3:23 beautifully illustrates this principle: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” A good writer (especially a Christian writer) creates a plot fit for a King. She pours effort into every facet of her story, from the small details like grammar to the bigger components like structure. This lengthens the writing process, but a good writer is willing to spend extensive amounts of time on her story so it will gleam like a star on a clear winter night.  


Good Writers Treat Their Work Seriously

Unlike the previous attributes, this one isn’t a definite indication of a good writer. Many people write as a hobby or side job yet are no less sincere. However, professionalism is always an earmark of a great writer.


Firstly, a good writer is disciplined. She incorporates writing into her schedule and only interrupts these sessions if she has a heart attack, writer’s block, or a craving for chocolate. Though she may not write daily (even people with regular jobs get the weekend off), she devotes as much time to it as possible, even if she has to shut off social media. The rigorous training of an ice skater competing in the Olympics is reminiscent of how a conscientious writer works.


Secondly, she doesn’t sacrifice professionalism for the sake of creativity. She knows when to be a kooky superhero and when to remove the mask and don the suit. She studies and abides by the rules and recommended techniques. Before submitting a manuscript, she reads the guidelines thoroughly and notes the type of content the publication accepts. Following the guidelines to the letter will not guarantee acceptance, but it sets her apart. Even if her piece is rejected, the editor or agent will see that she isn’t taking the task lightly, and that will pave the way for future acceptance.


Thirdly, a good writer realizes that advancing her skills requires monetary investment. Some writers decide to spend thousands on a college degree (don’t worry, you can be a good writer without moving into the poorhouse) while others opt for the more affordable (and often better) route of purchasing writing craft books, enrolling in writing courses, attending writer’s conferences, and/or paying for a tutor. Moreover, a good writer is willing to invest in her books by enlisting the best (not the cheapest) editors, cover designers, and formatters.


Good Writers Impact Others

All writers write for themselves. We write because we love it. We write because we long to become known. We write to torture ourselves. Writing is a career, so wanting to receive the fruits of our labor is not a sinful desire. Even occupations that focus on serving others, such as pastoring, doctoring, and firefighting, offer some form of compensation. However, the people who save the most lives (physically and spiritually) aren’t motivated purely by money. And the writers who pen the most meaningful stories don’t write solely for themselves.


A good writer desires to influence, educate, inspire, and/or entertain readers. No matter the story, a good writer cannot divorce her need to write for other people’s benefit. I occasionally write short stories that are illogical, random, and some might call them downright stupid. I write these stories because they help me to relax and break writer’s block. But even then I find myself using the humor to bring a smile to someone’s face. 


Also, a good Christian writer focuses on glorifying God. The themes she chooses to address and how she handles them point to Him either explicitly or implicitly. Through the godly or ungodly behavior of her characters, she encourages other Christians to magnify God in their lives. Her stories provide a hearth to cold, dead hearts (without scorching them in a blaze of preachiness) and nudge them toward the One who can give them eternal life.


Although personal motives won’t necessarily affect what kind of writers we are, the wrong ones can inhibit us from reaching our full potential. Stories crafted with self-centered motives will often be shallower and less compelling. We’re supposed to do everything for God’s glory, and that includes writing (1 Cor. 10:31). Edifying others may not be our primary goal with every project, but as Christians, I believe we should aim for that result, even if indirectly. Writing for pleasure, for instance, usually sharpens our skills, which in turn helps us produce stronger stories that will have a larger impact on others.


Misconceptions about Being a Good Writer

We’ve all developed a picture in our minds of what we think a “good writer” looks like. But several parts of that image are false, because a good writer isn’t:


Someone who never needs their manuscript edited or critiqued. Every writer needs editing, regardless of their experience level. Even editors who are also authors hire other professionals to nitpick their manuscripts. Why? Because our books are like our children, and we overlook their faults because we love them. But those faults must be dealt with for the child’s (or our story’s) sake.


Someone who rarely receives rejections. Many writers have the mistaken notion that their books will be accepted on the first attempt, but that is as likely as opening a can with a toothpick. You are neither the first nor the last to be rejected. Dr. Seuss was rejected twenty-seven times and C. S. Lewis eight hundred times.


Someone who is traditionally published. If you’ve landed a book contract, you’re probably a good writer. The market is overflowing, and publishers typically choose only the best. However, many good writers are not traditionally published. Some prefer self-publishing because they want more control over their books and/or a larger percentage of the sales. Others may be seeking publication but haven’t hit the right agent or publisher yet. Remember, every good writer was once unpublished.


Someone who never struggles with writing. First of all, ha, ha, ha. “Every writer I know has trouble writing” says Joseph Heller. This includes me. This includes you. This even includes the entire team at Story Embers. In fact, the writers who never struggle are usually the bad ones, because nobody ever has difficulty not thinking (which is what bad writers do when they start typing).


What You’re Really Asking

When you question whether you’re a good writer, that’s actually not what you’re asking. Rather, you’re asking, Am I a perfect writer?


Well, you’re not. And if you keep asking yourself that, you’ll avalanche a pile of unproductiveness. Yes, your story has flaws. But those are symptoms of your humanity, not determiners of your talent.


The true test is whether you let your mistakes hold you back.


  1. Sandrina

    Amazing, amazing, amazing article!

  2. Alabama Rose

    Great reminder! I forget this all too often.

    • Mariposa Aristeo

      Me too—I think all writers are prone to self-doubt (especially me 😂).

  3. eden anderson

    This article came a just the right time! I was feeling really down and out about my writing…like it wasn’t worth keeping on writing, that I’m a failure as a writer and I should just give it up and die in peace. But then I read this…and I’m determined to just keep on. Thank you so much, Mariposa! You made my day. ❤️❤️

    • Mariposa Aristeo

      Aw, that makes me so happy! 🤗🤗🤗 It means a lot to know I’ve helped another writer, especially when I’ve been down that hard road myself (and will undoubtedly fall into it again). You’re welcome, Eden, and may you keep on writing forever! ❤️

      Btw, your new profile pic is absolutely adorable. 👌🏻😍

    • JennytheFaun

      It came at just the right time for me too! I struggle with feeling the same way, but this article is a huge encouragement!

      (And I like your hedgehog too)

    • eden anderson

      Hey Jenny, glad I’m not the only one who struggles with these sort of things! 😉 Yes, Mariposa was a huge encouragement! Aw, thanks.

    • Mariposa Aristeo

      I’m glad to hear that my article encouraged you, Jenny! 🤗 I’ve had such moments, and God has always prevented me from giving up, whether it’s by a Bible verse, a word someone said, or an unexpected hug from a loved one.

  4. T.Young

    The ending really got to me. I hadn’t (recently) realized how crippling my own pride of writing really is until I got to the end. Ouch. But I needed it.


    • Mariposa Aristeo

      You’re welcome, Timothy! 🙂 I think all writers struggle with pride (including me) and we often need reminded to be humble. 😊

  5. Ariel Ashira

    C.S. Lewis was rejected EIGHT HUNDRED times!!? *mind blows* That is crazy! If publishers don’t like my book, I will be sure to remind them of that.

    • Mariposa Aristeo

      Hahaha—I know! 😄 When I was researching for my article about how times famous authors were rejected, never in a million years did I expect Lewis to have received so many rejections! 😮

  6. Ruth Meyer

    Great article, Mariposa! Reading this, I realized something about how schooling affects our writing, and what we think about editing and editors. In school, you write on a variety of topics, but always for a grade. Even if you like those topics, you can’t get that imposing red letter at the top of the page out of your head. Your teacher reads your work, and grades it according to a set criteria. But, you have already graded your own work based on your personal criteria. You may have even given yourself an A (or and F), and if the teacher gives you a different grade, it could be crushing or elating. But, it still feels false. It’s easy to feel like the teacher can’t possible understand the effort it took you to create that document. Pretty soon you find yourself not caring about what you write anymore, as long as you can get the grade you want to see (or need to see) on the top of your page. Writing should never be like this! But, even outside of school, I think we all fall into the same pattern of thinking. If we find someone to edit our work, we instantly envision them as a teacher, someone who will read through our work in a single day, give us a grade, and force us to eat the consequences. This is unfair to teachers, and to editors, but I know I often think this way wrongly! I even think this way when I’m the one editing my own work. A better analogy to adopt would be the dinner table. You work hard to make a delicious meal for your family, present it to them, they eat it in 20 minutes, and then come in the reviews and critiques. Needed more salt, try ketchup instead of tomato sauce next time, I don’t like cucumbers!, the meal was great–but it cost so much, etc. Instantly you feel the meal was a failure, you were a failure, and you never want to cook again!! (all too true) I’ve learned that’s not it at all! Those comments come from full bellies, from people who have eaten and probably enjoyed 80-90% of what I prepared, and from people who have a genuine interest in my cooking and seeing me improve my culinary endeavors. Those comments aren’t grades, and most of the time they are preceded with an honest “thank you for the meal!”. Those words aren’t pass-or-fail condemnations, but interested and invested communications. That’s what editing is all about.

    • Mariposa Aristeo

      Thank you for reading, Ruth! 😊 I can see how school could induce fear into writers and cause them to quit writing. I’m glad you haven’t let that keep you back! 😃 I hope you’ll cook up something great, in your kitchen and in your writing. 🙂

  7. Alatheia Grace

    This is very inspiring! I’ve been facing this question lately and I’ve not been writing. Your post came right one time! Thanks!

    • Mariposa Aristeo

      You’re welcome (and thank you 😊)! I’m glad to help a fellow wielder of the pen! 🙂

  8. Onika

    This article answers the questions and doubts I’ve accumulated over the years! Right ON!
    My heart skipped a beat when I read the misconception that a good writer is someone who never struggles with writing. Nothing could be farther from the truth!
    Thank you for this, Mariposa!

  9. Susan Sage

    I’m afraid the idea that good writers don’t need editing or rewrites is why there are so many self-published books out there that shouldn’t be. This is a good article. Thank you.

    • Mariposa Aristeo

      That is very true, unfortunately. We need more writers who are dedicated to excellence. 🙂 You’re welcome! Thanks for reading, Susan! ☺️

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Article Categories

Every Year, Thousands of Writers Give Up

Every Year, Thousands of Writers Give Up

 Don’t be the next.


We understand how exhausting writing can be, so download our free e-book and find inspiration to press on!

Congratulations! Redirecting you to the eBook in one moment...

Pin It on Pinterest