The Art of Becoming a Good Writer

Today’s guest post is by E. M. Foster.

Self-doubt is real when it comes to budding writers, and experts are not immune to it either. But the biggest burning questions often have to do with ourselves: Is my writing actually good? How do I know if I’m a good writer?

There’s no definitive way to answer this because, ultimately, you must decide for yourself.

Confidence is a valuable thing to have when writing, but it’s not something you can acquire like grammar or editing skills. You need to recognize when you are getting better and what you are doing that makes your writing good to know if you are a “good” writer.

But how do you know if you’re heading in the right direction? Here are a few things to remember to know that you’re becoming a good writer.

First, Isn’t Being “Good” at Writing Subjective?

You might ask if there really is a definite way to determine if someone is “good” or “bad” at writing. After all, aren’t there different parts of writing that different authors may be better at than others? Does it make an author a “bad” writer if they don’t practice the same techniques as others?

You might say we simply need to look at the author’s work to determine if they are “good” or “bad,” but there’s more to it than that.

Whether the author’s writing itself may be good or bad is what’s subjective in this case.

Developing good writing technique and habit is important, but there are certain ways to know if someone is developing into a good writer based on more than just these habits. Mastering techniques and finding your own style may point to good writing, but in the meantime, while a writer is learning, there are different ways to tell that someone is practicing the art of becoming a good writer.

While categorizing writers into two cut-and-dried “camps” of good and bad risks sounding judgmental, don’t think of the following as a judgment on the person (being a bad or good person) but rather on the habits and attitudes themselves. A “bad writer,” for our purposes here, is one who is making choices that will impede their progress and growth as a writer.

Good Writers Know Their Strengths and Weaknesses

Your willingness or unwillingness to learn and improve your craft is one of the most telling aspects of being a good writer or otherwise.

If you’re struggling to gain confidence in yourself, know that the reason could be because you mainly see your mistakes and you don’t already see how you have been getting better. That can be a good thing.

Bad writers do the opposite. They think that there’s a stopping point to learning, or maybe that they’ve already reached it. They believe they have no weaknesses.

Good writers, on the other hand, view their weaknesses and want to fix them. They know that there is always something new they can learn. And when they look at the past mistakes they made, they notice what they could have done differently (and work to fix it).

Good writers know that these mistakes are all part of learning and practice, and if they find that they have difficulty with a certain aspect to writing, they work to change that. They recognize their weaknesses but don’t let those weaknesses give them a reason to give up.

However, good writers also recognize their strengths. When they constantly look for feedback, they consider what others are saying is good and what needs work.

Bad writers may either give up or ignore the advice of others when given feedback, not distinguishing between helpful advice and a personal attack. They don’t see how good feedback highlights both the strong and weak parts of their work.

Good writers take the time to examine both strong and weak and see how they can improve upon them. For the weak writing, practice and patience is required. For the strong writing, writers gain confidence and practice further.

Good Writers See Their Progress

While good writers look over their mistakes and figure out how to fix them, they also don’t dwell on their mistakes overly much. Instead, they look at how they’ve progressed as they continue in their writing careers. They see marked improvement because they are, in fact, heading in the right direction.

So if you ever feel those self-doubt thoughts creep up on you, take the time to examine a piece you may have written last year, or the year before, or years back. You might wonder: Why did I write this section this way? Why did I word it like that when it would have been better like this? It’s those little details that good writers acknowledge and appreciate when they compare the then and now.

While it might be tempting to cringe at your old writing (and many of us do), know that you can have confidence in yourself by experiencing that. The path to becoming the writer you want to be isn’t perfect. To make progress, you need to follow the learning curve, which means knowing more now than you did when you first started.

Being a good writer also means seeing progress in the first place. It’s an exponential growth, and good writers are willing to take that challenge even if it’s going to be an uphill battle.

Ernest Hemingway once said, “Writing is something that you can never do as well as it can be done. It is a perpetual challenge, and it is more difficult than anything else that I have ever done—so I do it. And it makes me happy when I do it well.” When you look at your progress and see how far you have come, know that you’re on your way to becoming a good writer, and because you’re meeting that challenge, you’re finding the beauty of good writing along the way.

Good Writers Don’t Give Up

Lastly, and this should go without saying, good writers become good writers because they don’t give up. They meet the challenge that Hemingway explained was part of writing. They don’t let the obstacles they face or the self-doubt or the mistakes they make give them a reason to give up, and that is partly what makes them good.

Bad writers often come into writing believing they know everything. They believe they can’t make a mistake, that they have nothing to learn, and that their writing is perfect the way it is. They don’t see the challenge because they are afraid of it, and they might even give up when faced with the realities of the writing process.

Good writers become good writers because they do whatever they can to meet the challenges they face. Self-doubt may plague them, but they continually brush that aside and persevere.

Becoming a good writer is not an easy process, but there is a beauty to the process. Know that striving to become a good writer doesn’t happen right away. Seeing progress and pushing yourself further is what you can do to mold yourself into the writer you want to be. With that knowledge, you can push self-doubt aside when you ask, “Am I good writer?” because you can know you’re on your way.

E. M. Foster is a writer, blogger, and graduate student from Florida. Her work has appeared in literary journals, including Aurora Journal, Sledgehammer Lit, Ariel Chart, and others, as well as blogs, including A Writer’s Path and The Word Slayers. You can find her work and more writing tips at her blog.

Search Posts Here

Subscribe to My Blog

Similar Posts


  1. Excellent piece! Every writer needs to hear this. If I may have permission I would like to share your article with a writers group on facebook. The group is called Writer to Writer. Lots of writers on there with the question, “am I good enough?” This article can help so many.

  2. Great advice by E.M. Foster. I agree with pretty much everything she talks about. Keep it positive, always. Keep an open mind when it comes to your critique from friends, as it’s the only way you will learn from other readers. And KEEP READING…as reading good authors will not only put your craft into perspective pertaining to how “good” or “bad” your writing is, but you will also learn so much about the craft of writing by reading good writers. Plus, reading a lot will also help to round out your own “voice” by helping it to expand and grow. Thanks for all of your insight and advice. I think my favorite advice from E.M. Foster is as follows:

    While good writers look over their mistakes and figure out how to fix them, they also don’t dwell on their mistakes overly much. Instead, they look at how they’ve progressed as they continue in their writing careers. They see marked improvement because they are, in fact, heading in the right direction.

  3. Very concise and wise. Interesting that, although I haven’t tested this with an infinite variety of cases, it appears that the word “writing” in this article could be replaced by almost any skill-driven activity, and the truth in the article would still stand. Acting, gardening, accounting, dancing, coding, playing the violin… they all require fortitude, perseverance, and a belief in the possible.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *