You Might Not Suck, But Don’t Be An Ass

I just read a blog that I won’t bother linking to because the stance was so stupid and, frankly, insulting (and also an old post). This writer complains about the Absolute Write forums (which, for full disclosure, I do frequent), saying that they are backward. Why, you may ask? Because he interpreted their definition of a good writer (someone who can see the flaws in his work and doesn’t think the sun shines out of his own ass) as somebody who is afraid that her writing sucks to the point where she can’t even look at it herself. Furthermore, he misinterpreted the idea of a bad writer (someone who refuses to see flaws in his work and thinks the sun shines out of his ass) to mean someone who merely thinks his work is good. Um, no.

The sign of the good writer is the ability to spot flaws in one’s own work. And the ability to fix them without turning into a diva about it. A good writer has every right to think her work is good as long as this confidence doesn’t turn to arrogance. Bad writers, on the other hand, tend to have a much higher opinion of their work than the work warrants. They often shun valid advice and refuse to believe that their gems of writing require editing.

The blogging writer compared writers to surgeons. This is inaccurate. Writing is an art form, a craft, and as such doesn’t have the same “right and wrong” definitiveness that many other professions do. Good surgeons and bad surgeons may both think they do good work but it is up to the teacher, or the boss, to decide whether or not they are good enough. It’s cut and dry: you’re either a good surgeon or you’re not. There is very little subjectiveness in medicine, except perhaps in calculating possible consequences of new medical techniques, which is a different kettle of fish altogether and not the point of this argument.

Writing is not a science. Writing is a subjective thing. One writer’s “good” will be another’s recycle bin fodder. As such it can be difficult to gauge one’s ability. Confidence is good, but arrogance is not. Confidence is “I think this is good, but let’s see if there’s anything I can do to make it better.” Arrogance is “I AM A WRITING GOD NOBODY HAS ANY RIGHT TO TOUCH MY GENIUS NO IT IS PERFECT GET YOUR GRUBBY HANDS OFF MY ART.” See the difference? If you think your confidence may be mistaken as arrogance, particularly by others who are not as assured of their ability, tone it down a bit. It’s fine to like your work, but it is not fine to make others feel attacked or inferior.

And remember that on the internet you are little more than a collection of words; there are no facial expressions (excepting emoticons), body language or voice tone in order to help you reach your intended meaning. If something you are writing sounds like it could be misinterpreted, chances are it will be. So to summarize:

Confident writer: good.

Arrogant asshat: bad.

And that concludes today’s rant.

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2 thoughts on “You Might Not Suck, But Don’t Be An Ass

  1. I guess one can consider surgery an art, though it’s not exactly a subjective art, if that makes any sense. The one true arbiter of skill is how well the patient benefits from the surgery.

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    • Yeah, the whole subjectiveness is why I don’t think it’s a good comparison to writing. There are definite right and wrong ways to perform surgery, even when a surgeon is trying a new method.

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