Everyone Can Write, But Not Everyone is a Writer

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Written by James Dowd,
• 5 min read

“Everyone can write, but not everyone is a writer.” It’s certainly not a new belief or saying. In fact, I find it regularly used by copywriters as a way to defend their jobs, their craft, and their perceived level of respect in the industry while more and more people, positions, and products encroach on their livelihood.

That doesn’t mean it’s true.

As a fellow copywriter, I can confidently say that those who use this phrase feel they must defend their position because they’re threatened, intimidated, and scared. After all, they sacrificed so much to get here. They dreamed, they read, they studied. They honed and cherished. They furiously worked for the right skills, for the right jobs, in the right markets, in the right industries. They’re a writer. This is who they are. This is what they do. And yet, common belief is that because everyone out there studied the English language for many years, we’re all fully equipped to be a writer — to critique, edit, and even write in a professional capacity.

While every one of us trained to write in some capacity, it can still be one of the hardest things any of us will do in our daily lives. It takes years of experience and training. It takes passion, energy, and blood. And yet, when we do it right, when it feels like we’re not only making progress, but making a connection with the page, and our readers, it’s incredible! That’s a drug everyone has tasted and looks forward to.

As the great writer Jason Rose once said, “Writing is torture, but great writing is masturbation.” So, writers are tortured, exhausted, or busy. They constantly seek self pleasure, and they have very little capacity for criticism. It takes practice to be able to live and work that way consistently. It takes patience to hear the thoughts and opinions of others. It takes a miracle to forgo gratification for agreement.

Keep in mind though that a writer’s plea to “non-writers” — to stay in their own lanes, to focus on their own jobs — is merely a demonstration of their lacking confidence. We writers are feeble, self-conscious beasts. Our sensitivity gives us our powers. Our thirst to know more, to feel more, to have more, to be more, fuels us and inspires us. And yet, it leaves a nerve exposed for the world to pester — to torture! This exposure leaves us always open for attack, and for the opportunity to feel inferior.

“Writing is 10% skill, 40% hard work, and 50% crippling self doubt.”

– Jason Rose

On the other hand, writers, while skilled, experienced, and hopefully talented, are still subject to feedback and criticism. After all, this is a job, and they may just be suffering from the IKEA Effect — that psychological phenomenon that allows one to believe their work is great just because they created it, much like that IKEA furniture you painstakingly put together, which looks like particleboard garbage. And so, our charge is not to fight, but to check our egos, absorb everything, learn from everyone, expand our way of thinking. That’s how we became writers to begin with.

Besides, because you can write, you can be a writer. Regardless of what some may say. Just remember something:

Great copy, great writing, is not a series of words spelled correctly and lain flat within a set of strict guidelines. It is not of a certain character count. It is not done by committee, and it is certainly not meaningless.

No, great writing is music. It melds words and phrases in such way as to educate and inform while making you feel as if you’re part of a rare, deep, disruptive conversation. It hooks you, pushes you, and pulls you. It etches itself into your subconscious, maybe forever.

Great writing connects emotionally. It lays obstacles and shows you the way over. It excites you, and incites you.

It is a skill, and an art form. It requires talent, experience, audacity, grit, and creativity. Even more, it requires empathy — the ability to feel and understand what someone is feeling and experiencing. Notice, I didn't say “What someone is thinking.” Because, in great writing, emotional experience is more important.

From habit to impulse and dedication to craving, if you can understand it, you can predict it. If you can predict it, you can provoke it. If you can make them feel something, they don't need to think anything.

Everyone can write, but not everyone is a writer. However, this does not mean you yourself can't be a writer. And, none of this means you aren't one already.

Simply respect the craft. Then, be fearless. Don't let your own criticism or limitations stand in your way. Laugh at your own inabilities, inferiorities, and inhibitions. Think of the reader and give them an experience. Take your drug and feed their habit while you’re at it.

Everyone can write, but not everyone is a writer. Except, if you put yourself into it, truly. If you Write with Blood, you are a writer.

So, please, take this as a challenge to become a writer whenever the opportunity arises, no matter who you are or what you do for a living. I promise you, it will rarely be easy, but it will always be fulfilling.

Go, be a writer and use your words as weapons to change the way people live their lives.

Think you can be a writer? We’re always on the lookout for great ones. Give us a shout to take our Writing Test.