Good Writing Writ Large

There is a problem with writers. If what a writer wrote was published and sold many, many copies, the writer thought he was great. If what a writer wrote was published and sold a medium number of copies, the writer thought he was great. If what a writer wrote was published and sold very few copies, the writer thought he was great. If what the writer wrote never was published and he didn’t have enough the money to publish it himself, then he thought he was truly great. The truth, however, was there was very little greatness. It was almost nonexistent, invisible. But you could be sure that the worst writers had the most confidence, the least self-doubt.

— CHARLES BUKOWSKI,
Women

François Camoin made a similar observation in a Writers at Work workshop in Park City back in 1988, noting that those fledgling writers who sweated and stuttered and apologized as they handed in their work were, as a rule, better writers than those who proudly and unflinchingly proclaimed their word-processed scribbles as masterpieces.

Over the years, I’ve discovered the same to be true. The best writers treat writing the way a truly devout person treats religion: something practiced, not boasted about; lived, not preached.

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