Updated: Dec 30, 2019
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Podcast Episode Transcript: Hi, genuine writers! This is Innovative Editing’s Jeannette DiLouie welcoming you to episode #45 of The Genuine Writer Podcast. We keep things short, sweet and to the point here so that you can learn what you need to learn and get back to writing already.
Today’s episode – which discusses what a genuine writer really is – is sponsored by none other than The Genuine Writer e-letter at www.InnovativeEditing.com. It goes out once a week and wraps up all the previous week’s posts into a nice, neat little package, including helpful discussions of writing elements, editorial pointers, publishing insights and marketing advice.
Better yet, it gets you started with “Writing Tips 101,” an easy-to-digest, six-page report that sets your stage to get some serious writing, editing – and eventual publishing – done.
What is a genuine writer? You might ask. It’s someone who truly strives to be genuine about their craft. That means being honest about who they are and what they do... including admitting how there’s nothing that special about being a writer in and of itself.
If that sounds like an odd thing to say, consider this: All it takes is the act of jotting anything down on paper or typing it up on a computer. And voila! You wrote something. Congratulations. You’re a writer. But if you want your writing to mean something exceptional – if you want to make a positive diﬀerence in your own life and perhaps even someone else’s – then you need to stop thinking of it as a mere action and start looking at it as a legacy. You can be composing a serious non-ﬁction work, your autobiography or some fantastical piece of ﬁction. It can be a 279-word blog post, a three-page corporate communication or a ﬁve-part book series. Whatever it is, you’re going to impact someone in some way.
Genuine writers strive to make that impact as meaningful as possible. And one of the ways they do that is by listening.
Writers who are genuine about their craft know they’re not perfect. Looking at the world around us or even just the home around us, we’re usually realistic enough about how much other people need to change. We’re even pretty good about admitting how we’re not perfect.
In theory. In practice, it’s not nearly that easy. Because when someone points out a particular imperfection of ours, our ﬁrst reaction is often to get defensive. And when we’re defensive, we don’t listen. Not really.
That’s true of life in general. And it’s true of writing in particular. We want to be universally appreciated, approved of, loved and/or respected.
No criticism allowed! Please?
I could go on for chapters and chapters about the reasons behind that mentality. But since this is a writing podcast and not a psychological study, let’s save some time and just admit we’re not perfect. That’s what a genuine writer would do. When genuine writers realize they’ve done something wrong – putting an illogical plot point in their story, or leaving a statement wide open for criticism, or using too many run-on sentences – they don’t try to gloss over it. Instead, they work hard to overcome it through a two-step process, which they then never stop repeating. They know that, while they roam this story-ﬁlled world, there will always be room for personal and professional improvement.
Believe it or not, this isn’t non-ﬁction speciﬁc, though the genre you’re writing in certainly can determine the kind of research you do. If you’re working on most non-ﬁction manuscripts and certain ﬁction ones as well, you need to do pre-writing research, looking up ﬁrst-hand accounts of your subject matter, consulting secondary reports and seeking out tertiary opinions.
Each and every one of those are important to consider, and none of them should be instantly valued over the other. Because while ﬁrsthand accounts are taken from eye-witnesses – people who were actually there when an event occurred – those people might have been distracted by outside factors, including strong emotions or previously determined opinions that colored their view.
Secondary reports, or second-hand accounts, are great because they remove any absolute fear or absolute awe the researched subject might have carried with it, adding a touch of perspective to the matter. But what is their relationship with the person they heard the story from? Are they instantly biased for or against that source?
Then there are tertiary research resources, which are typically fairly far removed from the situation by distance and/or time, giving them the opportunity to evaluate the matter even more closely. Yet they’re not automatically superior for being able to see the bigger picture. Not when they’ve got their own biases and opinions that they’re automatically working with. That’s why genuine writers consult a reasonable amount of sources, not just one, two or three; and not just one kind or the other.
When it comes to most types of ﬁction and some non-ﬁction, doing pre-writing research might simply mean studying how other writers hone their craft. This can be through blog posts, articles or books on the subject in question. Or it can simply be by general reading, which allows the subconscious to soak up a whole lot more than a mere good story.
Next up on the Genuine Writer list – if you intend to get published, anyway – is getting outside opinions. Employing beta readers, editors and/or proofreaders is a form of research. You’re seeking out a deeper understanding of a subject matter – your manuscript – in order to strengthen your argument. That’s the whole point of asking someone else to read over what you’re written: to strengthen your argument.
As writers and as humans, we have a pretty bad habit of getting stuck inside our own heads, assuming we know what we’re talking about and that others know what we’re thinking. Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes it isn’t. Recognizing that we’re not always the best judges of which is which, writers who honestly care about their presentations seek out amateur, professional and semi-professional opinions about their copy.
As I implied before, there is one exception to this: If you’re writing for yourself and only yourself with no plans to publish – say as stress-relief, a personal challenge or in a journal – then you’re oﬀ the hook.
One way or the other though, genuine writers really are always looking for ways to learn. Like I said earlier, writers, even genuine ones, are never going to be perfect. That’s not a goal to strive for unless you want to drive yourself to disappointment (or delusion). But the best of the best are constantly striving to improve what they do and who they are. They recognize that improvement is always something they can achieve: that it beneﬁts them, their reputation and their readers from start to ﬁnish.
That’s the diﬀerence between a genuine writer and a regular one. Not fame. Not fortune. Just the continuously fostered search for honest improvement.