— Thomas Jerome Baker (@profesortbaker) January 21, 2014
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” ― Aristotle
As I look at this quote from Aristotle, I nod my head in agreement after a moment’s reflection. The things we do well are in most cases, things we do repeatedly well. Very few of us are surprised by our success. We know when we have put in the required effort in study and practice to achieve success.
What could this mean for a writer? If we write every day, will we be successful? I may have oversimplified this with my question. Few writers would say that writing every day leads to success. Quantity alone is no guarantee of writing well. Quality matters as well.
This then could be the takeaway that makes most sense to a writer. To write well, you have to write a lot. To write well, you have to write well. That’s a given. So how does a writer know when s/he is writing well?
We can ask two people. We can ask ourself. If we believe we have written well, then we have written well. I’m serious about that. Good writing is always going to be pleasing to the writer. If your writing does not please you, then how is it going to please someone else? I would say that it can not please others, if it has not pleased you. Write for yourself, first, and others, second.
The other person you can ask is the reader. Now here is where things get a bit tricky. Some readers will like what you wrote. Others will not like what you wrote. For example, you can go to Amazon and find countless books that have 5 star reviews, which means the reader loved the book enough to give it the highest number of stars possible, 5 stars. This same book will also have any number of 1, 2, and 3 star reviews. Which basically means that the reader is not pleased.
In sum, excellence is not an act, it is a habit. For a writer, the habit of excellence is formed by writing a lot, and writing well. As I see it, the writer is writing well when the writer is pleased. We must learn to understand and live with the notion that not all people are going to be pleased with the writer. That’s OK. In the end, any success the writer has can be directly traced back to first writing a book that pleases you as a writer, and then having the courage to believe that what pleases you, will also please others. In such cases, any storyteller will tell you: “Success is not a surprise.”…