Meditations On What Makes A Master Writer

Writing a BookToday, anyone can publish just about anything from their personal computers; anyone can take a few moments writing an e-book and toss it up on vendor websites (like Amazon.com) or print books via self-publishing websites (like lulu.com).

Mastering the art of writing has nothing to do with how many books one may or may not sell, if any at all; it’s about one’s ability to articulate what they feel in their heart and see in their mind’s eye. Writing is a perishable discipline that requires years of dedication and perseverance through trial and error, no differently than becoming a master in martial arts, painting, or ice-skating.

Some people may even become overnight best-sellers, but that doesn’t mean that they’re masters of the art of writing for what it is; becoming a best-seller is about meeting market demands with intelligent advertising and viral attention, writing and publishing something with good timing that matches the market trends of the time. However, a true master of writing is someone who constantly pushes the envelope of their expressional abilities by investing their soul into the art of writing simply for what it is, making it a part of their identity by:

  • Progressively building their vocabulary
  • Deepening their understanding of their language’s grammatical rules, when to follow those rules, as well as when and how to break them
  • How to skillfully wield one’s words to fit within a specifically desired compositional structure (or none at all, depending on the artistic style of the piece) in order to leave a specific effect on their audience

Book Sales Alone Don’t Make A Master Writer

In the capitalist society that I grew up in, it seemed to be the vox populi that one’s personal worth, as well as the worth of their ideas, was based heavily upon how much money they made. There are countless writing examples (like Tom Clancy’s Red October, or Herman Melville’s Moby Dick) of books that sat for years without making a dime, yet eventually grew to heavily influence the world of literature that exists today. Sure, one might say: But Moby Dick is a classic! Or… Tom Clancy is a best-selling author! They’re masters of the art of writing!

Writing a Book…not at first they weren’t. The greatest writers of all conceivable time started exactly where every other writer in the history of mankind started, including you: writing the first page. And that first page took time to cultivate with the skills of the writer before a single copy was ever sold. I paraphrase the late Clancy’s own words written in the foreword of Red October by saying that the book sat in a drawer for years before Mr. Clancy decided to dust it off and give it another try at publishing, and few can now doubt he is a master of the art of writing.

The art of selling books is another discipline: marketing. An author’s writing ability and an author’s ability to sell are two completely different things entirely. One can earn entire college degrees in business marketing. Marketing has no bearing on an individual piece of writing’s true quality, depth, purpose, or meaning. Like music, rarely is high quality literature mainstream.

A master of writing is someone who’s attained the ability to write an appropriate statement. Nothing more. Nothing less. The definition of whatever an “appropriate” statement may be is relative to the writer as an individual in relation to their respective audience; the “attainment” of that skill can take years of dedication to the art of writing—perhaps a lifetime.

The fundamental principles of mastery in the art of writing are exactly the same for every art-form in the world, from swordsmanship to crochet.

Who do you consider a master writer and why? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Michael Norton
Michael is the bestselling author of Fighting For Redemption, as well as an award-winning essayist, Internet marketing strategist, and mechanical engineer.

Visit his personal blog at NortonsMind.com.
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